The very first thing Darius Hodge did was block a punt to set Wake Forest up deep inside the red zone.
That got it started.
The Wake Forest junior linebacker took down a tight end, and then sacked a quarterback on fourth-and-6 in the second quarter. Hodge later tipped a Southeast Raleigh pass attempt.
But that was just to keep it going.
The Cougars scored on their first four possessions before finishing Southeast Raleigh, 45-6, Friday night.
“Coach been telling us what they were going to do the whole week,” said Hodge, who tore his meniscus in the spring. “He told me to stay focused, read our keys and that’s what happened. It put me in the right place to make plays, and that’s what I did.”
The Wake Forest defense held off the visitors until the fourth quarter, with a majority of its starters sitting. The Cougars (3-0) didn’t allow a first down until the second quarter, when they were already leading 28-0.
The Wake Forest offense gave it a 38-0 cushion by halftime.
But this, for the Cougars – the defending Cap-8 champions and last year’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA runner-up, was business as usual.
“We were just trying to execute our playbook,” Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said. “I don’t think we ran a play that we hadn’t ran this year. Obviously we have strong running backs. They really worked hard over the summer and have a little speed and power.
“Can we sustain it throughout the season? I hope so.”
Lucas said this was the best start he’s seen this year of his offensive line, which he told the running backs to recognize at halftime.
Sophomore running back Marquis Dunn scored two of the three first-quarter touchdowns for the Cougars. His 14-yard burst gave them a 20-0 lead after one period.
Lined up at the Southeast Raleigh 31 to start the second, Wake Forest converted a fourth-and-11 before senior rusher Shy’heem Mitchell scored from 19 yards away. Sophomore running back Devon Lawrence scored twice to round off six rushing touchdowns.
The teams traded turnovers after a Hodge sack forced a turnover on downs in the middle of the second. The Cougars fumbled on the first snap, but sophomore defensive back John Jiles picked off the Bulldogs (0-3) to set up a touchdown.
N.C. State commit Dylan Parham accounted for Southeast’s lone score. The senior quarterback punched it in from a yard out off a quarterback sneak.
The 6-foot-5 Bulldog went head-to-head with Wake Forest star defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence often before Lawrence came out to give the younger Cougars some playing time.
“We knew scheduling this game … was going to be tough,” Southeast coach Michael Thibodeau said. “We, as a staff, wanted to expose our kids to the best program we could. In our early schedule, we’ve done that. We played some teams out of the county, and now we’re coming into the county to play the best that there is.
“Wake Forest is just a team that does everything right.”
Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan