Leesville Road threw out the biggest challenge Wake Forest has faced this season, but in the end the Cougars turned to their defense and running game to stay undefeated with a 24-17 Cap-8 win.
Leesville led the first half. Even after Wake appeared ready to take over in the second half, the Pride rallied again to tie the game.
Wake finally got the winning points after linebacker Darius Hodge’s interception set up a 44-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard run up the middle by Devon Lawrence for a touchdown that put the Cougars on top, 24-17, with 4:54 to play.
Then it was up the Cougars’ defense to come up with the stops, and linebacker Connor Loeffler’s second interception of the game ended Leesville’s chances.
Leesville (4-5, 2-3) took advantage early of a blocked punt by T.J. Agather to set up a 17-yard scoring drive, with quarterback Vince Amendola hitting Matt Hamilton with a 14-yard touchdown pass.
The Pride took that lead into the second quarter despite losing a fumble, throwing an interception and losing 40 yards on a snap that went over the punter’s head in the first quarter.
Wake got on the board on Chris Vidal’s 27-yard field goal, but Leesville’s Jefferson Norwood responded with a 45-yard field goal for a 10-3 lead at halftime.
Leesville couldn’t run the ball on the Cougars and Wake had just 33 yards rushing at halftime.
“The new staff at Leesville has done a good job and obviously their defense was very good tonight,” Wake coach Reggie Lucas said. “I looked out there and didn’t see a lot of size, but I saw guys flying around and playing hard for them. By this late in the season teams have gotten a really good look at our offense. I told our offensive line if they block Devon Lawrence and Marquis Dunn will make plays and eventually it happened.”
Wake came right out in the second half with Jon Jiles getting an interception, and then Lawrence went 51 yards on the next play for the tying score. Marquis Dunn scored on a 24-yard run and the Cougars led 17-10.
The Amendola-to-Hamilton combination worked again for a 5-yard touchdown pass to tie the score, but then it was Wake that pushed across the winning points.
THEY SAID IT
“We played probably our best game of the year, everything from energy, to attitude, to believing, everything. I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Leesville coach Brad Wilson said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Minus-84: Yards lost on the ground by Leesville. 40 came on a snap over the punter’s head, the rest on sacks and running plays. “We just couldn’t establish the run. Their front is really good,” Wilson said.
121: Yards rushing by Wake junior Lawrence on a night when running the ball didn’t come easily for either team.
10: Passes caught by Hamilton. He had two catches for touchdowns and 135 receiving yards on passes thrown by Vince Amendola.