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Wide awake! Cougars open some eyes in big win over Middle Creek

Wake Forest High football has hit its stride, and that could spell trouble for the rest of the Triangle.

It’s too early to tell if the Cougars are headed to a fourth straight NCHSAA 4AA title game, or even another NAC-6 championship, but Wake Forest made an example out of Middle Creek on Monday, winning big, 52-6. The victory felt like a statement to anyone across North Carolina who may have counted out the Cougars, winners of the past three state titles.

After a season-opening loss to Cardinal Gibbons, Wake Forest got off to a slow start in week two before defeating Clayton 42-10.

There was no slow start against the Mustangs. The Cougars (2-1) jumped out to a 35-0 lead, their only mishap a fumble in the second quarter that led to a Middle Creek (2-1) touchdown.

Other than that, the Cougars looked more like themselves and less like the team that got beat in week one.

“I think the coaches did a good job of keeping the guys mentally focused for this game,” Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said. “Middle Creek and us, we go back six or seven years and the games are typically close. These guys taking that first tough loss, they were anxious to get back out here.”

Three different players scored rushing touchdowns in the first half, two each from junior Chris Moore and senior Elijah Hines, and Cody Britt picked off Mustangs’ quarterback Sean Brown twice. Each of those interceptions lead to a touchdown and Wake Forest senior kicker Austin Riley connected on a 48-yard field goal right before the end of the half to give the Cougars a 32-point advantage at the half.

Maquel Haywood got in on the scoring act, exploding for a 67-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage after Wake Forest forced a punt, pushing the lead to 35-0 after the successful extra point. Middle Creek came into the contest averaging 37 points per game, but were kept way short of their average after facing a suddenly improved Wake Forest defense.

“This is motivating us right now,” defensive back Cody Britt said. “We have to carry this into the next game. We knew Middle Creek was a good team, now us putting up numbers like this, it definitely will help us moving forward.”

The Cougars travel to Millbrook on Friday. Lucas said individual players have improved since week one, listening to their coaches and taking that onto the field. But he wouldn’t go as far as calling this victory a statement win.

“I think it gave my offense maybe the confidence,” Lucas said. “I think we are still working on things on that side of the ball, having eight guys on offense who weren’t there last year, this game was good from that aspect, but it wasn’t a statement game.”

Three who mattered

Cody Britt, Wake Forest - Junior defensive back picked off two passes in the first half, both leading to Wake Forest touchdowns on the ensuing possession.

“We knew what they were going to do,” Britt said. “We watched film, I read my keys and I was in the right place at the right time.”

Austin Riley, Wake Forest - Senior kicker nailed a 48-yard field goal in the first half and was a perfect 7-7 in extra points.

Matthew Panz, Wake Forest - Senior linebacker picked off a Sean Brown pass on the Mustangs’ first drive of the third quarter. Middle Creek moved into Wake Forest territory in nine plays, but on play 10, Panz made a diving interception.

Worth mentioning

Dating back to last season, Wake Forest has scored at least 40 points in six of their last eight games. During that same stretch they’ve scored more than 50 points three times.

Lucas got a big day from a stable of running backs. Haywood rushed for 156 yards and one score, Hines finished with 104 and two scores, while Moore had 40 yards and two more scores. DJ Sellers also added two scores 56 yards and two scores.

Scoring summary

W - Hines 32 run; (Riley kick)

W - Moore 2 run; (Riley kick)

W - Moore 1 run; (Riley kick)

W - Hines 10 run: (Riley kick)

W - Haywood 67 run; (Riley kick)

M - Boone 26 yard pass from Brown; (Conversion failed)

W - Riley 48 yard kick

W - Sellers 17 run; (Riley kick)

W - Sellers 7 run; (Casey kick)

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.