by Clellie Allen
KNIGHTDALE — The first half of the out-of-conference game between Wake Forest and East Wake looked like a tight game between close rivals.
First, the Warriors stunned the Cougars with a nearly 70-yard kick return right down into their red zone. An opening score by East Wake was narrowly avoided when the Wake Forest defense forced a fumble at the 1-yard line.
Secondly, the Warriors quarterback, senior Trent Evans was a complete menace, able to make the quick transition from passing or handing off to running the ball himself. A less-prepared Wake Forest defense could have easily been stymied in the first two quarters by the East Wake offensive maneuvers.
As it was, the half ended 14-all, with both teams looking ready for break from the muggy weather.
The second half, however, was a completely different story, as the Cougars shut out the Warriors, while adding 31 offensive points to their side, to end the game 45-14.
“We knew East Wake was going to be tough going into it,” said Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas. “They were very young last year and had good experience and good athletes coming back in. They have some big athletes up front, so we knew were going to have to play hard.”
The Cougars played mostly a running game, but junior quarterback Mack Moore completed three of his four passes for 58 yards.
On the ground, the team carried the ball 53 times for 331 yards, the vast majority of those yards coming from Bryce Love who averaged 14 yards on 11 carries.
One of the fastest sprinters in the state, Love found wide open fields twice, running for an 86-yard touchdown on a kick return in the second quarter and a 31-yard score in the fourth.
“We improved this week in our practice,” Love said. “I feel like the team had a great showing, and I just helped do my part.”
Jamal Sweet, a junior who moved up from halfback last year to the fullback position, was possibly the surprise player of the game. Just pushing 5 feet 5 or 6 inches, he doesn’t play small, he plays strong.
Sweet managed to slip through the East Wake defense repeatedly, carrying the ball an average of nearly 6 yards per carry for a total of 91 rushing and 103 all-purpose yards.
“I don’t think about the size difference, just about getting the job done,” Sweet said, adding his smaller size allows him to effectively “hide” and break tackles. His lower center of gravity keeps him on his feet when others might not.
Now 2-0, the Cougars will take on an also undefeated Cary High School at home Friday at 7 p.m.