Wakefield’s short playoff run against Millbrook began so promising.
The Wolverines scored first. They answered an early Wildcats touchdown by jumping back on top. They even responded in final quarter of their 42-30 loss to Millbrook in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA playoffs Friday night.
In a wild finish, the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds traded touchdowns on the first three possessions, the higher-seeded Wakefield trying to overcome a slew of penalties and keep its season going. Millbrook avenged an Oct. 16 loss to Wakefield.
Matt McKay and Marius Cooper, the quarterback-receiver duo behind the Cap-8 Conference’s best receiving offense, connected often to move the ball early.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
But then there was a disconnect, accompanied by a Millbrook run responsible for ending the Wolverines’ season in the Cap-8 rematch.
To start the game, Wakefield (8-4) used eight plays to march inside of the visitors’ red zone. A Michael Tilley 36-yard field goal gave his team the early lead. McKay, after finding Cooper for gains of 18 and 19 on the next drive, raced up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown, responding to a Millbrook score and putting the Wolverines on top to end the first.
The Wildcats (9-3) converted back-to-back Wakefield turnovers into touchdowns. Millbrook senior Merhi Faysal recovered a fumble that led to a Larry Rountree III score. Millbrook junior Nic Vinson returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown on the next Wolverines possession to take a 21-16 lead at halftime.
As it has most of the regular season, Millbrook’s rushing attack kicked into high gear in the second half.
Rountree scored from 49 yards away to open the third quarter, as the four Wakefield possessions ended in a punt, a lost fumble and two turnovers on downs.
Rountree, a junior running back who is the Cap-8’s leading rusher, scored three touchdowns on the night for his Wildcats to advance.
His final was in response to a late Wolverines score. In their attempt to see one more game in these playoffs, McKay found senior Kyle Grewe for a 10-yard touchdown to trim their deficit to 35-24 with 9:44 left in the game.
Rountree hauled in a 69-yard touchdown on the first snap of Millbrook’s next possession to help seal the win.
ECU-bound quarterback Reid Herring passed for two Wildcats touchdowns in the victory, where the Wildcats had 16 possessions.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan