By: David Allen
SOUTHERN PINES — “Defense is the key to winning, and tonight that was the case.” said Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas after the Cougars’ victory against Pinecrest Friday night. The game was a defensive battle with an interception by Wake Forest’s Nic DeLuke in the final minutes deciding the game, 17-10.
Pinecrest started the night off badly with a delay-of-game penalty as they prepared for the opening kick off. The Cougars recovered the ball and started play on their 26-yard line. Then after only one play, Bryce Love ran 44-yards to the Patriots’ 26 -yard line setting the Cougars up for a few more plays before Love ran it in 6 yards drawing first blood and making it 7 - 0 with a successful extra point attempt by Zack Coats.
While the Patriots were forced to punt on their next drive, the Cougars got backed up to their own 1-yard line before they too had to punt. This set up Pinecrest with good field position allowing them to eventually score a field goal.
The Cougars’ next drive was a bust, but they managed to sack the Patriots’ quarterback Christian Ledbetter twice on Pinecrest’s next drive, which crippled any chances of the Patriots scoring on that run either.
Both teams continued to battle back and forth across the field in the second quarter until Wake Forest was able to get into field goal range and increase their lead 10 - 3 with only 3:28 left in the half.
In that time, Pinecrest started on their own 20-yard line after a touch-back and made it as far as their 35-yard line before a failed lateral pass landed in cornerback Kendall Massey’s hands, who then ran it back for a touchdown making it 17 - 3 at the break.
Coming back in the third, the game was marked by failed drives on both sides until the 2:50 mark when Ledbetter ran three plays, taking the Patriots- practically by himself-all the way to the end zone closing the score gap, 17 - 10.
With defensive plays again preventing both teams from making it very far, the clocked kept ticking on a tight game.
With the fourth quarter half over, it wasn’t until Pinecrest made two huge passes to tight end Kahner George that either team seemed to make offensive headway.
The Patriots marched down to the Cougars’ 16-yard line and then Ledbetter was sacked on the 14-yard line behind the line of scrimmage by outside linebacker Norman Cade.
With second and long and little more than a minute, the Patriots threw the ball. Safety Nic DeLuke, however, broke the the play, and sealed the game for the Cougars by intercepting the ball. The Cougars took two knees to let the clock safely run out.
Wake Forest is now ranked 15th in the state, and will play 22nd ranked Millbrook in the third round of the playoffs. The game is Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Millbrook High School.