WAKE FOREST — With the 2013 regular season concluding last week, playoff football has arrived and tomorrow (Friday), three area teams will begin their quest for a state championship.
One team, Wakefield has clinched home field advantage by winning the Cap 8 Conference championship and will host their 4AA first round game.
The Wake Forest Cougars, which tied for third place in the Cap 8 standings with Sanderson, will play at Panther Creek of the Southwest Wake Conference.
Heritage High School is making its second playoff appearance in their short 3-year history and will travel to Laurinburg to battle undefeated Scotland High School.
All three games will kick-off at 7:30 pm.
With the exception of a 40-19 loss to Millbrook in week eight, Wakefield, 10-1, has manhandled their league and non-conference opposition, scoring over 35 points a game on offense.
Green Hope, 5-6, finished the season with a production of 26 points per game. Four of their games were lost by ten or less points.
The Wolverines and Falcons are similar in that they boast an explosive offense with both quarterbacks throwing for over 2,000 yards.
Wakefield’s Evan Brabrand has 2,713 yards in the air while Luke Massei’s passing yards total 2,450.
Brabrand’s prime targets are Josh Lowery and Jake Butler, who have 704 and 506 receiving yards, respectively.
Green Hope’s top receiver is Elijah Murrane, who has 935 yards.
“We know they are a passing team with a pretty good defense that does not give up a lot of points,” said Wakefield coach Rod Sink. “They’ve lost a lot of close games so that lets us know that we can’t just show up tomorrow and win.”
Sink said his team will have to focus on defending the pass. “We need to get pressure on their quarterback to prevent him from having enough time to sit back and pick apart our secondary,” he said.
Kelton Whitehead, the Wolverines chief running back has accounted for 18 touchdowns this season and has gained 972 yards on the ground.
“We’re hoping it’s going to be a low scoring game,” said Green Hope football coach Kwame Dixon. “Brabrand is very good and their offense had put up a lot of points this year.”
“I hope our defense can rise to the occasion,” Dixon added. “Every team they have played has had the same game plan but has not been able to keep their offense in check.”
Dixon said he is preparing his team to focus on keeping Wakefield’s offense off the field as much as possible while eliminating their own mistakes.
“This season our offensive line has played quite well,” Sink said. ‘Their ability to run and pass block has made our offense more complicated to defend. And that prevents teams from primarily focusing on defending our passing game and now they have to make sure their linebackers are thinking about run and pass on every snap.”
“Evan has continued to grow as a player throughout the season,” Sink went on to say. “Not only is he the leader of the offense, he is one of our team leaders and he just keeps finding ways to get the job done.”
Sink added that his team will have to execute on offense and defense against Green Hope.
“They’re a scrappy team that will not allow us to have an easy victory,” he said.
Following back to back losses, Wake Forest, 8-3, finished the regular season with a 45-13 win against Enloe.
The Cougars and Panther Creek met in the season opener for both teams and Wake Forest won that game 28-14.
The Catamounts, 9-2, also lost to Middle Creek by two points and finished in second place in the Southwest Wake Conference behind them.
Wake Forest’s offense has been augmented by the running of junior Bryce Love, who has been consistently productive throughout the season, averaging around 150 rushing yards per game. He has amassed 1,646 yards this season.
The Cougars are a 12th seed while Panther Creek is seeded five.
Heritage High, 6-5, won three conference games this season, including a 30-7 win over Leesville Road.
The 16th seeded Huskies will face top seeded Scotland High School, 11-0, which scores about 45 points each game.
The Fighting Scots put 75 points on the board against Pinecrest High School.
Heritage High football coach Jason McGeorge said his team will try and get a few long drives.
“If we can shorten the game and force a turnover or two, we stand a great chance,” he said.
“They are very explosive and they have a solid defense,” McGeorge added. “They are a number one seed for a reason and they are a well-coached team.”
Husky quarterback Blake Walters has been effective at passing the ball and against Broughton last week, he ran for over 140 yards.
“We know Scotland is a very good football team and we aren’t shying away from that,” Walters said. “We are going to go down there and play our brand of football and play to win the game.”
Heritage likes to run the ball and Greg Clifton and Abdul Sesay usually have those duties and both are quick and strong.
Scotland’s quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe leads his team in rushing yards with 1,469. He has also passed for 1,128 yards.
“If we focus on him, they have a running back that can hurt us just as bad,” McGeorge said.
On defense, McGeorge said the Falcons are very sound and they are going to fly to the ball.
“We are going to fight our hearts out against them,” McGeorge said. “We are in year three as a varsity program and have made the playoffs back to back and I’m very proud of these young men.”
“They have worked very hard and deserve to make the playoffs,” McGeorge added. “We had some high expectations and we were very close to reaching them.”