Last year, Wake Forest proved Wake County could once again produce N.C. High School Athletic Association champions in football, snapping a 29-year drought.
This year it showed that dynasties can reside in the capital county.
The Cougars downed Mallard Creek 21-0 in the 4AA title game on Saturday at Wake Forest University’s BB&T Stadium, making not only back-to-back titles but back-to-back championship shutouts. Wake Forest has outscored its title game opponents 50-0 over two seasons and won 31 games in a row.
“I couldn’t be any more pleased as a coach,” Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said. “To see them finish this way was great.”
But to repeat, the Cougars met a team just as physical.
It’s not often that N.C. high school football state championship games are played under snow flurries – the game was pushed back from a noon to 3 p.m. kick to ensure the roads and stadium were clear, but light snow was still falling into the second quarter – or feature low-scoring slug-fests, but both were the case.
The game was scoreless for three quarters.
“Mallard Creek has a tough defensive front and they were stonewalling us the first half,” Lucas said. “We’re not going to change our game plan, and we didn’t do that. We just started blocking better in the second half.”
Wake Forest (15-0) didn’t strike until there were 5 minutes, 25 seconds to go on a 20-yard touchdown pass by Chris James to John Jiles that seemed like yet another broken play in a game full of offensive and special teams miscues. But James was able to evade a sea of linemen and motioned for Jiles to drift to the opposite side of the end zone. James threw across his body to Jiles, whose white jersey rose above two defenders from Mallard Creek (14-1) in the end zone.
Jiles was awarded with the most outstanding offensive player award.
That was all it took for the floodgates to open.
Just 2 minutes and 23 seconds later, the Cougars put the nail in the coffin as Marquis Dunn sprinted 54 yards up the middle on a misdirection to double the lead to 14-0.
Devon Lawrence, a UNC recruit and the game’s MVP award winner who led all players in all-purpose yards with 144 on 26 touches, added on a 7-yard touchdown run with just over a minute to go for good measure.
Javon Terry’s interception on the ensuing Mallard Creek drive set up the short field for the Cougars. Terry, also headed to UNC next year, broke up two passes that looked were potential scoring plays for Mallard Creek and won the most outstanding defensive player award.
It was the fewest points scored in a 4AA championship game since the N.C. High School Athletic Association split up 4A and 4AA in 2002 and the lowest scoring 4A game since A.C. Reynolds’ 7-0 win over Douglas Byrd in 1999.
Both sides combined to punt eight times and run 10 negative plays on offense in the first half, but the second half had more opportunities as both teams made trips to the opposing red zones.
In the third quarter, Mallard Creek had a chance to strike with a chip shot field goal from the 10-yard line, but the Mavericks elected to attempt a fake that resulted in a 15-yard loss. It was Mallard Creek’s third trip to the red zone at that point in the game.
Wake Forest responded with a drive that went down to Mallard Creek’s 1-yard line, but the Cougars couldn’t convert on three straight plays and the fourth down field goal in the early fourth quarter just wide from 31 yards out.
The Cougars were given a gift as the Mavericks hiked a snap over their punter’s head four plays later, setting up Wake Forest at the Mallard Creek 17. After driving it to the 5-yard-line, penalties pushed Wake Forest back to the 20, setting up James’ pass to Jiles that held up as the game-winner.
Wake Forest’s 29-0 win over Page a year ago was the first shutout in 4AA state championship history. On Saturday, Wake Forest created the first shutout streak in 4AA history.