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by Clellie Allen
WAKE FOREST — As the new football season begins for the Wake Forest High Cougars, coach Reggie Lucas feels like he has a good sense of how his team is doing, and likes what he sees.
“There are no surprises so far. After the scrimmage against Cardinal Gibbons, I thought we were on pace,” Lucas said. “I didn’t see anything that was overly, ‘Wow, I didn’t know we were going to have this,’ and I didn’t see anything disappointing. So, I’m satisfied where we are.”
The players have already put in a full summer of workouts and training. Although not allowed to suit up and have contact play before August by North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules, like most top-tier football programs, the Cougars have spent their vacation hours in the weight room and in playing 7-on-7 football.
“I feel good about the team. We’ve worked hard. They are getting better every single day in practice.
“This summer we had a good summer with the 7-on-7 passing leagues. The receivers stepped up with Dezmond Clanton and Brooks Cunningham. They’ve had an outstanding summer so we’re expecting a good year,” Lucas said.
Wake Forest historically makes deep runs in the playoffs. Last year, however, they struggled a bit on the offensive line, particularly after losing a key offensive center back. This year, however, Lucas feels better about his offense.
“Offensively, I feel really good,” said Lucas. I think we can be very diverse this year with the backfield and the running backs and I think we will be able to throw the ball a little bit more this year.”
Making use of the pass
Lucas will be turning to junior starting quarterback Mack Moore to direct the action on the field. Moore moved up to a starting position late in the season last year and saw significant field time during the playoffs.
“Mack gained a lot of confidence in the playoffs last year,” Lucas said. “He is the first true quarterback I’ve had … and I expect to throw a little more than in the past.”
Lucas is not deserting his team’s tried and true offense, however. “We are a wing-T offense, but the wing-T has multiple formations and we can even get in a spread to throw the ball and it’s still our wing T. So having a quarterback who can throw — people may think we’ve changed, but it’s still within our offense and we have the personnel to carry it out,” Lucas said.
The Cougars will rely on running backs with familiar names like Bryce Love, who currently has eight offers on the table as a junior. “Bryce is a very humble kid,” Lucas said. “His parents have raised him that way. He has over a 4.0 in academics, makes A’s in AP classes and honors classes and also runs (track). Hopefully he stays healthy and he can go wherever he wants to,” Lucas said.
Devonte Reynolds also became a bit of a household name last year and should put up solid numbers again.
“People don’t talk about Devonte Reyonlds, but last year he was a very strong back. He’s a tough, physical kid,” Lucas said.
Reynolds will move from fullback to halfback this year with junior Jamal Sweet moving into the fullback position.
On defense, the Cougars have three starters returning including Dexter Lawrence and Antwain Terry, whom Lucas calls “solid.”
“Dexter has four offers already as a sophomore — Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson and Arkansas,” said Lucas. “Antwain should pick up a couple because he’s just as good.”
Also on the line will be Jalen Thorpe and Joey Jensen, the two defensive ends. Javon Felder will take the middle linebacker position.
Norman Cade returns as well and will start on the outside in addition to serving as a team captain. Bryson Hester will also be on the line.
In the Cougars secondary, Lucas has three returning starters: Kendall Massey, Chris Leonard and Nick DeLuke who will take turns in the corners.
“On defense, we have a lot of experience and should be solid,” Lucas said. “Our goal is we don’t want to give up more than 14 points.”
“We don’t want anyone to score, but we’re realistic. If we can give up less than 14, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” he said.
The lynchpin to Lucas’ team may not be offense or defense this year, but the special teams. Lucas loads his special teams with standout athletes because he knows they are akin to a coach’s secret weapon.
“Special teams will be key to us. Special teams are 40 percent of the game — that’s a valuable 40 percent,” Lucas said.
He expects sophomore Cole Westberry will put up big yards at kicker, along with senior soccer player Zach Coates.
“I think we can be strong — Zach has a strong leg. Last year, our biggest problem was field position on kickoff. We do not want to give up bad field position, so we’re working hard on kickoff coverage and getting the ball deep — possibly in the end zone,” Lucas said.
Nic Deluke is back as punter and “should do a solid job,” according to Lucas.
On returns, Lucas will look to Love, Reynolds and Deluke to get good field position.
“If teams kick it deep, I’m expecting big returns,” Lucas said. “And hopefully, they’re only getting one (kickoff), because if they’re getting kickoffs, that means they’re scoring.
“But we’ve always put our solid players on special teams and that’s been a plus for us,” he said.