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WAKE FOREST — It was a rivalry showdown between Wake Forest and Rolesville's football team in the second round of the 4AA state playoffs. The Cougars took care of business once again by beating the Rams 26-14 at home Friday.
The first time these two NAC 6 conference opponents played, Wake Forest defeated Rolesville 31-30 in overtime after the Rams failed the two-point conversion. In the postseason matchup, the Cougars locked down defensively, shutting out the Rams in the second and third quarter to come away with the victory.
Wake Forest head coach Reggie Lucas said the biggest difference between this game and the first game was limiting the mistakes on defense.
"We felt like the last time we played Rolesville, we made some key mistakes," Lucas said. "We didn't want to make any big mistakes tonight. We cleaned it up in the second quarter and it took Rolesville a while to find their rhythm again. Defensively, we have to be strong."
Another big factor for the Cougars was Kahlil Watson. The junior receiver and cornerback was ejected in the first quarter of the regular season matchup against Rolesville. This time, he played on almost every snap and the result was a win by two possessions.
"Kahlil makes a huge difference on our team when he is on the field," Lucas said. "He's a playmaker on both sides of the ball. You saw that tonight."
Wake Forest's other top performer of the evening was quarterback Noah Douglas. The senior threw a 12-yard touchdown pass and also scored on a short rushing touchdown to propel the offense to victory over the Rams.
"We had a good mentality coming into this game," Douglas said. "We played with a chip on our shoulder. A lot of people have been doubting us. We just wanted to go out there and prove everyone wrong."
Douglas' rushing touchdown was the first score of the game seven minutes in. Then on the final play of the first quarter, Rolesville's Byrum Brown threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Cyrus Rogers on fourth and goal. That tied the game up at 7-7 going into the second period.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Brown was penalized for intentional grounding while throwing the ball out of bounds from his own end zone. That resulted in a safety and gave the Cougars a 9-7 lead. Then on the ensuing punt, Triston Spencer took the ball more than 50 yards to the house for a quick score. That extended Wake Forest's lead to 16-7.
In the third quarter, Douglas tossed a touchdown pass to Chris Moore to make it 23-7 with 5:08 left in the period. Then with 21 seconds left in the quarter, Austin Riley converted a 21-yard field goal to make it 26-7.
Rolesville only scored one more touchdown in the final quarter. Josh Pullen pounded his way to the end zone on a 16-yard rumble.
From there, Wake Forest held strong defensively to advance to the third round of the state playoffs.
"We treated this game like any other game," Douglas said. "We just came out here and dominated. That's what we do."
After the game, Rolesville head coach Martin Samek said Wake Forest did a better job dictating the game against his team. He pointed out that the quick nine points in the second quarter made a huge impact on the end result.
"Defensively, Wake Forest did a lot better job of controlling our run game," Samek said. "Giving up the safety and the kickoff return for a touchdown was the turning point of the game. We never caught up to Wake Forest from there. I knew coming in that the winner of this game was going to represent the east in the state championship. Wake Forest is a very good football team, so I wish the best of luck to them."
With the loss, Rolesville ended the season 10-3 overall. Their only losses of the season were to Wake Forest twice and to Heritage.
In his first season as Rolesville's head coach, Samek led the Rams to their most wins in school history. He said there's plenty to be positive about the football program moving forward.
"I thought this was a good year," Samek said. "We did some good things. We have some things to build on. We will have 14 of our 22 starters coming back next year. I think we'll be alright. If we keep working, things will work out for us."
With the win, Wake Forest improved to 11-1 overall. This is the seventh year in a row the Cougars have won double-digit games in a single season. Lucas said this year is special because the team has had to deal with so many injuries since the beginning of the season and yet, the team has found a way to win anyway.
"Most people don't know how much we have had to overcome this year," Lucas said. "We had several starters go down with injuries tonight. These players are doing what it takes to win. One guys goes down, another guy steps up. That's what you need to do in order to survive and advance in the playoffs."
Wake Forest will take on Hoggard at home Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the third round of the 4AA state playoffs.
"We've got to study the film on Hoggard," Lucas said. "Defense wins championships. We want to play great defense against Hoggard."
"We have to be mentally prepared," Douglas added. "If we do that, we'll dominate that game, too."