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Wake Forest holds off Rolesville, 31-30, in overtime in neighborhood rivalry game

Before the game, Wake Forest Sheriff Gerald M. Baker was on the field for the pregame coin toss. In this rivalry contest between Wake Forest and Rolesville, there would not be a new sheriff in town crowned on the football field.

The Cougars extended their winning streak against the Rams, winning 31-30 in overtime, improving to 3-0 in league play. Rolesville came into the game with an 8-0 record, the most wins in school history, and was looking to knock off Wake Forest for the first time. The Rams almost pulled it off.

After Josh Pullen rushed for his fourth touchdown, this one coming in overtime, the Rams decided to go for two. Down 31-30, on the road and with the Cougars unable to slow down Pullen most of the night, it seemed like the right call. Butt during the timeout before the play, Wake Forest switched up its defensive look, perhaps throwing off Rolesville’s offense.

“During the timeout, my defensive coordinator said, ‘Let’s get in our four front,’ ” Cougars’ coach Reggie Lucas said. “Let’s put our (big guys) inside. I take my hat off to him for rolling the dice and showing a defense we hadn’t shown all night.”

Instead of Pullen getting the ball, sophomore quarterback Byrum Brown attempted the conversion and was stopped in the backfield for a loss, setting off a celebration on the Wake Forest sideline.

Moments earlier, that joy was felt on the Rolesville side of the field. The Rams tied the score at 24 in regulation on a 33-yard field goal from Devin Versteegen. Wake Forest got the ball first in OT, and took just one play to score from the 10. Noah Douglas found Tristen Spencer for the touchdown on a quick slant, perhaps catching the Rams off guard with a rare pass play.

“Our offensive coordinator called a good play,” Douglas said. “We just went out there and executed it.”

The Rams took their first and only lead of the game with 9:28 remaining in the game, on Pullen’s third score of the night. Wake Forest answered, going 73 yards in 10 plays, 9 of them on the ground, their true bread and butter.

“Why would a team run a Wing-T in this day and time?” Lucas pondered. “That Wing-T has been great for Wake Forest High School.”

There weren’t many fireworks in the opening half, but plenty of hard hitting between the two rivals. Wake Forest took advantage of a Cody Britt interception to get on the board first. Britt picked off Brown in the end zone, and the Cougars answered with an 80-yard scoring drive. Elijah Hines scored from 6 yards out with 3:03 left, giving Wake Forest an early 7-0 lead.

Rolesville showed why it was willing to do what it took to stay in the game with the three-time state champs. Facing a fourth-and-2 in Wake Forest territory, the Rams faked the punt, snapping the ball to Josh Pullen, who picked up the first down.

Pullen was the workhorse on the drive, picking up 15 and 45 yards on his next two carries before scoring from the 6-yard line. Devin Versteegen’s extra point tied the score at 7 with 11:44 remaining in the first half.

That would be all the points between the two teams in the half. The Cougars forced another turnover — an interception by CJ Onuoha — but Rolesville’s defense was stout. Wake Forest missed a long field-goal attempt after the interception, and went three-and-out to end the first half.

The Cougars played all but one drive without junior Kahlil Watson, who was ejected on the Rams’ first drive of the game for throwing a punch. It didn’t seem to affect the Wake Forest defense much.

Other than the fake-punt drive when the Cougars couldn’t stop Pullen, the Wake Forest defense was solid as usual. Rolesville, however, showed that its defense is no slouch. The Cougars went on a 15-play drive, kept alive by two Rams’ personal fouls, but were held out of the end zone midway through the second quarter.

Missing his two biggest offensive stars, Lucas was asked if his young team grew up against Rolesville.

“We’ll see next week,” Lucas said. “We are still dealing with big things, with key players not being in the lineup. They have to continue to believe that whoever is on the field can do their part.”

RECORDS: Wake Forest (8-1, 3-0), Rolesville (8-1, 2-1)

THREE WHO MATTERED

Josh Pullen, Rolesville: The Rams senior was a load, rushing for all four of Rolesville’s touchdowns. He also scored the Rams only touchdown in the overtime. He finished with 147 yards rushing.

Fuller Howard, Wake Forest: Sophomore linebacker was in on the play that stopped Rams’ quarterback Byrum Brown in overtime on the two-point conversion attempt.

Elijah Hines, Wake Forest: Scored two rushing touchdowns for the Cougars, including one from 2 yards out in regulation to put Wake Forest up 24-21. He finished with 74 yards on the ground.

WORTH MENTIONING

  • Wake Forest wide receiver/defensive back Kahlil Watson was ejected from the game with 6:34 showing on the clock in the first quarter. The Cougars were already without star running back Maquel Haywood, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Watson came into the game as the big home-run threat and one of the top tacklers.

  • Rolesville is now 0-6 all-time versus Wake Forest. Wake Forest-Rolesville was the main school in the area until 2013, when Rolesville opened. Since then, the Rams have not been able to knock off their neighbors.

  • Wake Forest quarterback Noah Douglas started for two years at Rolesville before transferring to play for the Cougars.

“I’ve been looking to this game since I transferred,” Douglas said. “This is a big game for me, and I’m glad we came out with a (win).”

SCORING SUMMARY

W - Elijah Hines 6-yard run (Riley kick)

R - Josh Pullen 6-yard run (Versteegen kick)

W - Hezekiah Foster 74-yard kick return (Riley kick)

R - Pullen 3-yard run (Versteegen kick)

W - Riley 17-yard kick

R - Pullen 1-yard run

W - Elijah Hines 2-yard run (Riley kick)

R - Versteegen 33-yard kick

W - Noah Douglas 10-yard pass to Tristen Spencer

R - Pullen 4-yard run

RESULTS

Garner 48, Apex 0

Holly Springs 24, Apex Friendship 21

Cardinal Gibbons 59, Broughton 14

Cleveland 54, Clayton 9

Wakefield 34, Corinth Holders 20

East Wake 21, West Johnston 14

Fuquay-Varina 34, South Garner 14

Heritage 29, Knightdale 0

Hillside 19, Green Hope 16

Jordan 38, Riverside 24

Leesville Road 42, Southeast Raleigh 6

Ravenscroft 20, North Raleigh Christian Academy 7

Millbrook 21, Sanderson 6

Southern Durham 54, Cedar Ridge 0

Northern Durham 13, Vance County 6

Wake Forest 31, Rolesville 30

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