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Cougars hand Rams their first loss in overtime victory

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WAKE FOREST ⁠— Rolesville's gutsy call to go for the two-point conversion in overtime did not pay off as Wake Forest's football team held on until the final play to beat the Rams 31-30 at home Friday. It was a back and forth game between the two best teams in the state. Rolesville came onto the field undefeated, while Wake Forest has been building on a seven-game win streak. The Cougars extended that streak to eight games as they gave the Rams their first loss of the season. Wake Forest head coach Reggie Lucas said the win was possible by the backup players who were ready to earn their spot on the roster. "Ever since the Garner game, we kept losing kids to injuries," Lucas said. "We just kept overcoming things that was thrown at us this season and we did that tonight. We believe that the 11 guys we have on the field can get it done, no matter who is out there. The kids are buying into it. They are ready to make a play." One of the biggest moments of the game came when one of Wake Forest's best players, Kahlil Watson, was ejected midway through the first quarter for throwing a punch at a Rolesville player. That didn't bother the Cougars too much as Cody Britt intercepted a Rolesville pass in the end zone for a touch back less than a minute later. On the following drive, Wake Forest pounded their way up the field through the running game. The possession ended with a six-yard touchdown run from Elijah Hines to give the Cougars the first score of the game at 7-0. Rolesville responded on the second play of the second quarter. Running back Josh Pullen scored on a 3-yard run to tie the contest at 7-7. After some big defensive plays from both teams, Wake Forest and Rolesville went into halftime still tied. The Cougars broke the tie quickly on the second half kickoff. Hezekiah Foster returned the kick 74 yards for the touchdown. Less than three minutes later, Rolesville tied the game again off another Pullen touchdown run. Later on, Wake Forest kicker Austin Riley made an 18-yard chip shot field goal to give them a 17-14 lead. It looked as if Wake Forest was finally gaining some momentum entering the fourth quarter, but then a bad snap from their punt team put the ball all the way back on their own 10-yard line. Rolesville took advantage of that mishap a minute later with Pullen's third rushing touchdown of the night. That gave Rolesville their first lead of the game at 21-17. It was also Wake Forest's first time trailing in the fourth quarter this season. The Cougars answered back less than four minutes later off a 2-yard touchdown run by Hines. That gave Wake Forest a 24-21 lead with five and a half minutes left in the game, which was plenty of time for Rolesville to mount up a comeback effort. That's exactly what the Rams did. Using mostly run plays, Rolesville drove down the field and got into field goal range with nine seconds left on the clock. Devin Versteegan nailed the 33-yard field goal for the Rams and the score was tied at 24-24 with five seconds left on the clock. Wake Forest couldn't make a big play on the kickoff return, which sent the game to overtime.

Wake Forest scored on the very first play of overtime off a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Noah Douglas to receiver Triston Spencer. Rolesville had to score on their next possession, or the game would be over. Pullen scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the game to cut the deficit to 31-30. Instead of sending the match into double overtime, Rolesville head coach Martin Samek made the call to go for the two-point conversion to win the game. The ball snapped to Rolesville quarterback Byrum Brown just a little too high and he couldn't hand it off to Pullen in time. Instead, Byrum tried to make a run for the end zone. The Wake Forest defense tackled him before he could reach the goal line and the game was over. The Cougars held on for the overtime victory. "I have to give credit to my defensive coordinator, Ivan Braszo," Lucas said. "He wanted us to go with a four-front on defense on that final play. Rolesville has been hurting us up the middle with their run game all night. We pinched everybody in the middle. We just had to make the play and tackle the quarterback and that's what we did." After the game, Samek gave his thoughts on the play that determined the outcome of the game. "We went back to the same call that got us the touchdown a play earlier," Samek said. "We wanted to run behind our big offensive line. The exchange between the quarterback and running back didn't happen and Byrum tried to make a play. Unfortunately in a game like this, someone has to be the loser and tonight that was us." Since the school first opened in 2013, Rolesville always lost to Wake Forest by a large margin. This time, the Rams took the Cougars to overtime. Wake Forest hasn't played an overtime game since Dec. 9, 2016 at Middle Creek in the 4AA east regional championship game where the Cougars beat the Mustangs 20-17. Samek said it was a battle against two great football teams, but at the end of the night, someone had to win. "I think we're a good football team," Samek said. "When you have two good football teams playing each other, this is the kind of outcome you are going to get. It's like two heavyweight fighters throwing hay-makers at one another. Unfortunately, Wake Forest got the last punch in." With the loss, Rolesville is no longer undefeated at 8-1 overall and 2-1 in NAC 6 conference play. Even though the outcome didn't go the way the Rams wanted it, they showed that they can play with the best the state has to offer. "We have to make sure we have a good week of practice and focus on Heritage," Samek said. "We would have done that if we won anyway. We just have to make sure this loss doesn't carry over into next week." With the win, Wake Forest improved to 8-1 overall and are No. 1 in the NAC 6 conference standings so far at 3-0. The Cougars survived a scare against their conference opponent and now it's on to the next game. "We have to win with class," Lucas said. "This was a huge win against a rival school. I want the players to understand that high school football is great and that it can be over at any moment. We can't take it for granted. We just have to keep studying our opponent and keep enjoying the moment." Wake Forest will play at Wakefield Friday at 7 p.m. Rolesville will play at Heritage at the same date and time.

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