It’s no doubt Wake Forest football had high hopes this season after consecutive appearances in the N.C. High School Athletic Association title game.
The 2013 and 2014 runner-up Cougars went undefeated in the regular season before Greensboro Page curtailed their championship aspirations in the second round of the 4AA playoffs on Dec. 20.
After the game (against Page), the players were very emotional, as you could imagine.
Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas
Wake Forest and Millbrook were the final Cap-8 teams standing in the postseason. With their respective eliminations, the Cap-8 all-conference list was released a bit earlier than expected.
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Wake Forest players dominated the individual honors. Five-star recruit Dexter Lawrence, who will make his college decision on Dec. 14, was named player of the year, and his coach Reggie Lucas collected coach of the year honors. Lawrence recorded nine sacks for a loss of 76 yards on the year. The senior defensive tackle led the Cougars with 60 tackles this season.
Lucas said the second-round upset didn’t spoil the all-conference recognitions and, more importantly, an impressive season for his players.
“I think it’s two separate things,” Lucas said of all-conference and the football season. “Being named coach of the year is a testament to the team and my coaching staff, nothing that I have done personally other than being head coach of the football team. I’m proud of my staff and my players.”
Lucas said the Cougars knew hosting Page would be challenging. Page came in having only lost to two undefeated teams before extracting a 30-21 victory from Wake Forest.
The Pirates overcame a 14-0 deficit, and Lucas admitted how costly his team’s turnovers were.
“Page is a very good football team,” he said. “We knew we would have to play an almost perfect game to beat them. Unfortunately, we turned the ball over a lot and Page was able to capitalize. After the game, the players were very emotional, as you could imagine. Winning 12 straight games and losing in the second round, our kids definitely wanted to continue playing.”
Ten Cougars were named to the all-conference team, including the individual superlatives. Lawrence’s younger brother, Devon, shared the offensive player of the year with Wakefield senior wideout Marius Cooper. Devon Lawrence, a sophomore running back, amassed 1,273 rushing yards, averaging more than 115 yards a game and 8.7 yards a carry.
Wake Forest junior Xach Gill (41 tackles, four for loss) was named the defensive player of the year, while senior Cole Westberry (48 of 57 PATs and 72 points, 2,784 yards off kickoff returns) picked up special teams player of the year honors.
“Overall, our kids are proud of the season,” Lucas said. “When you make it to the championship game three of the last six years, people expect you to do that year in and year out. But as a football coach, I know how difficult it is. We lost in the second round, but I don’t think it takes away the accomplishment of the team.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan
2015 Cap 8 All-Conference Team
Player of the Year: Dexter Lawrence, Wake Forest
Co-Offensive Player of the Year: Devon Lawrence, Wake Forest and Marius Cooper, Wakefield
Defensive Player of the Year: Xach Gill, Wake Forest
Special Teams Player of the Year: Cole Westberry, Wake Forest
Coach Of The Year: Reggie Lucas, Wake Forest
Offensive Line: Charlie Butler (Wakefield), Brandon Corkery (Leesville Road), Brad Hughes (Sanderson),Brandon Locklear (Wake Forest), Konnor McCune (Wake Forest), Andrew Strickland (Millbrook)
Quarterback: Reid Herring (Millbrook), Matt McKay (Wakefield)
Running back: Larry Rountree (Millbrook), Jordan Logan (Sanderson)
Wide Receiver: Devone Jackson (Broughton), Jordan Moore (Leesville Road), Garrett Patnesky (Millbrook), Geoma Ward (Sanderson)
Fullback/Tight End: Sherrod McKoy (Broughton)
Offensive At Large: WR Isaiah Bowman (Millbrook), OL Jack Doyle (Heritage), ATH Cooper Eason-Riddle (Leesville Road), ATH Antavious Marrow (Enloe), ATH Trent Pennix (Sanderson), OL Thomas Smith (Sanderson)
Defensive Line: Daeqwan Bailey (Sanderson), Andrew Lair (Wakefield), Matthew Melvin (Leesville Road), Dahryl Moses (Enloe), Jayden Pauling (Millbrook)
Linebacker: Jordan Alston (Millbrook), Danny Blakeman (Leesville Road), Darius Hodge (Wake Forest), Robert Moore (Wakefield), Sam Vines (Sanderson)
Defensive Back: AJ Daodu (Enloe), Kha’aliq Lewis (Wakefield), David Roane (Leesville Road), Kimon Small (Wake Forest), T.J. Thomas (Wake Forest)
Defense At Large: DB Ryan Baldy (Sanderson), LB Jake Campbell (Wake Forest), LB Alim McNeill (Sanderson), ATH Jalen Pittman (Heritage), LB Patrick Rice (Leesville Road), LB Oscar Tavares (Wakefield)