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Wake Forest jumps ahead early to blow out Knightdale

Cougars capitalize on first half turnovers from the Knights

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WAKE FOREST — Wake Forest's football team had a rough start with a fumble on the opening kickoff, but that didn't stop them from running away with a 41-14 victory against Knightdale at home Friday. The Cougars poured on the points early in their first NAC 6 conference game of the season thanks to some early turnovers by the Knights. After turnover on downs by Knightdale, Wake Forest drove down the field. On fourth down and one, quarterback Noah Douglas punched it in for the Cougars on their first score of the night. On the first play of the second quarter, Knightdale fumbled on a failed option play and Wake Forest's Cody Britt scooped up the ball and took it into Knightdale's red zone. Not too long after that, Douglas found Maquel Haywood on a 16-yard touchdown pass. Less than a minute after that, Wake Forest's Triston Spencer recovered a fumble and took it 25 yards for a touchdown, extending the lead to 20-0 after the missed extra point. Five minutes later, Wake Forest's defense recovered another fumble. Two minutes after that, the Cougars scored again off a 7-yard touchdown pass from Douglas to Khalil Watson. All four touchdowns in the second half were off Knightdale turnovers, with three of them being from fumble recoveries. "We created those Knightdale turnovers and I thought our guys did a good job getting the ball," Wake Forest head coach Reggie Lucas said. "That was key early on. It's always nice to see the defense play so strong." Douglas was also a key factor on offense for the Cougars. The senior quarterback threw two touchdown passes and ran one in for three of Wake Forest's four touchdowns. "We came out mentally focused and stayed that way the whole game," Douglas said. "We had to face adversity when Maquel Haywood went down with that injury. I thought we did a really good job stepping up. The defense brought a lot of energy with the turnovers." Knightdale put themselves back in the game on the first play of the third quarter. Trevion Cooley broke out an 80-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 27-7. However, Wake Forest responded later on with a 16-yard rushing touchdown from running back Elijah Hines to keep them ahead with a comfortable 34-7 lead going into the fourth period.

Cooley scored again for the Knights off a 13-yard run, but that would be the last touchdown of the game for Knightdale. Hines scored again for the Cougars on a 14-yard run three minutes later to put the game away at 41-14. From that point on, the second and third string guys came in to play. Wake Forest held on in the final minutes to win 41-14. "We're trying to get better every week," Lucas said. "Nobody knows how hard we work behind closed doors and how much better our players are getting. You definitely want to see your team play better like they did tonight this late in the season." With the win, Wake Forest keeps their win streak alive to six games and improve to 6-1 overall and 1-0 in NAC 6 play. The Knights dropped to 5-2 and 0-1 in the NAC 6. The Cougars have dominated their opponents for the past six games with more than 40 points scored each contest. Although their defense has given up some points here and there, the offense keeps them ahead to win in convincing fashion almost every week. "We're a well-coached team," Douglas said. "We come out with a great game plan and we execute it. Our offensive line does a great job of blocking. We just try to score as many points as possible." Wake Forest did have a little bit of a scare early on when their leading rusher Maquel Haywood went down with a knee injury. The senior running back was able to walk off the field on his own power and didn't come back into the game. Lucas said he should be fine to play in the next match. "Maquel Haywood hyper-extended his knee," Lucas said. "We were up 27 points, so we didn't feel like we needed to risk anything. Maquel is a high-caliber kid with a great career ahead of him." If there is anything to work on for the impressive Wake Forest team, it's penalties. The Cougars allowed Knightdale to gain first downs off roughing the passer calls and offside penalties. "The penalties really hurt us," Lucas said. "We've been working on them for the past two weeks on not jumping offside when it's fourth down. It's going to happen. I don't like late hits, mostly because of player safety. We don't want to see those kind of penalties moving forward." Wake Forest will play at Corinth Holders Friday Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. Knightdale will face Rolesville on the road at the same date and time. "We're going to study film and keep resting up," Douglas said. "We have some injuries on the team right now. We just have to bring the same energy we brought into this game into our next game."