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by Clellie Allen
WAKEFIELD — A meeting in any sport between crosstown rivals Wake Forest and Wakefield comes with the atmosphere of two prize fighters ready to battle.
From the student sections to the players themselves, Friday’s football game, played at and won by Wakefield 32-26, smelled like state championship material. In reality, the season is still weeks away from starting the playoffs, but that didn’t stop the evenly matched Wolverines and Cougars from leaving it all on the game field.
Scoring began early. Both Wakefield, who received the opening kickoff, and Wake Forest had to punt after a handful of plays on their first possessions.
Wakefield’s quarterback Evan Brabrand had trouble connecting with his receivers while Wake Forest’s Devonte Reynolds slipped on the wet field for an eight-yard loss from which the Cougars couldn’t come back.
For their second possession, however, Brabrand had recovered his poise. On the heels of a keeper play in which he gained 37 yards and put his team on the edge of the red zone, Brabrand and Kelton Whitehead worked the ball to within 5 yards of the goal line and then Brabrand carried the ball himself over the line with 7:19 on the first quarter clock.
By their second possession, Wake Forest had also steadied themselves. Bryce Love went deep in his own territory to receive the kickoff. After running it 20 yards on the receiving play — out to the 27-yard line — he ran the next play 73 yards for a score.
At that point, the rest of the quarter was a defensive battle for both teams until Brabrand connected with Josh Lowrey on an 11-yard pass with 1:21 on the clock and Wakefield moved ahead 14-7.
The strong efforts by both defenses continued into the second period. With 3:40 left in the quarter, Devonte Reynolds, on the heels of a 20-yard bump from Bryce Love, found a weakness in Wakefield’s line and ran the ball for a 56-yard touchdown, tying the game.
In response, the Wolverines moved the ball to the Wake Forest 6-yard line in 11 plays. Wake Forest held them at the 7 and on fourth and goal, with just 1.5 seconds remaining, Wakefield brought in kicker Charles Morris who made an easy 25-yard field goal, putting the Wolverines up by three, 17-14, heading to break.
Coming back to the game in the third, it was Wake Forest’s turn to receive the kickoff. They moved the ball within 16 yards of the goal line before Love made an uncharacteristic fumble in the wet conditions. Wakefield recovered the ball.
In four short plays, Wakefield was back in the red zone. This time, the Wake Forest defense could not stop them and on another keeper play, Brabrand scored his second touchdown of the night, putting the Wolverines up 24-14 with the extra point.
The game again became a defensive battle with both teams completely stymied from being able to score for the rest of the third period.
At the start of the fourth, Love did what he does best and on a third and 13 from the Cougars own 12-yard line, ran what Wake Forest assistant coach Jaime Holland called a “man run,” barreling through a half dozen blocks for an 88-yard score with 11:39 left in the game.
The extra point attempt was not good and Wake Forest was within four at 24-20.
The two teams continued to not allow the other to gain much ground and they both went three and out on their next possessions.
With little more than seven minutes remaining, Wake Forest capitalized on excellent field position following a punt by Wakefield. Using their wing-T running offense, the Cougars got the ball down to the goal line. Moore then scored on a quick keeper play.
The extra point attempt was not good, however. Wake Forest had its first lead of the game at 26-24 with 5:24 remaining.
In just eight plays, Wakefield put the ball back into scoring range and on a Brabrand-to-Lowery 27-yard pass, they took the lead back with 2:24 on the clock. Brabrand again passed to Lowery for the 2-point conversion and the score was 32-26.
With less than two minutes to go, Wake Forest worked the ball down to Wakefield’s 13-yard line. This time it was the Cougars’ turn to be stopped by Wakefield’s defense. Moore tried several pass plays that fell incomplete. On fourth-and-six on the 9-yard line, Moore was sacked and turned the ball over on downs to the Wolverines with just 17.7 seconds remaining.
Wakefield allowed the clock to run out, securing their spot as the last undefeated team in the Cap 8 and leader of the conference pack.
“It was a hard fought match,” Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said. “Wakefield worked to give Brabrand time to throw the ball and succeeded.”
“We were still able to put up good yardage ourselves,” Lucas continued. “But time just ran out.”
Wakefield coach Rod Sink noted his team’s improvement through season. “Coming in, we weren’t sure where we would be as a team, (but) we took steps in the right direction.”
“The one thing I’ve noticed about this team is that we gel more and more,” Sink continued. “We’ve had to try different things and not pass the ball as much, so we run the ball and throw it.”
Wake Forest will play at home Friday against Heritage while Wakefield will travel to Millbrook. Both games start at 7 p.m.