APEX — Wake Forest will look to make history Saturday, competing for the school’s first state football title as the program makes its second trip to the big game in four years.
Just making it to this weekend’s championship has made a bit of history for the Cougars, as No. 12 Wake Forest is the lowest-seeded team to reach an N.C. High School Athletic Association title game since the subdivision playoffs system began in 2001.
“It’s more about the seeding than about this team,” Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said. “If you track us all year we’ve lost three (games), but those three losses weren’t like we got blown away. We had chances in those games and we shot ourselves in the foot, so these guys never felt like they were a 12 seed.”
Perennially a top team in the Cap Eight Conference, the Cougars received the low playoff seeding after losing three conference games to finish the regular season 8-3.
“We just had to let go of the disappointment of the regular season and go out and do what we knew we could do,” senior cornerback Chris Leonard said.
Only four times has a double-digit seed made it to the state championship, according to NCHSAA communications director Rick Strunk.
There have been two No.10 seeds – Davie County in 2010 when it lost to Durham Hillside 40-0 in the 4A final, and Charlotte Independence in 2007 when it lost to New Bern 28-17 in the 4AA final.
No.11 Northeast Guilford lost to South Point in the 2003 3A final, and No.11 Durham Riverside fell to Independence in the 2006 4AA championship.
Wake Forest will face an undefeated Charlotte Mallard Creek team seeded No.2 in the West region. Mallard Creek (15-0) is also seeking its first state title.
The Cougars (12-3) overcame four higher-seeded teams week after week while playing their entire playoff schedule on the road.
“We felt like we were the 12-seed nobody wanted to play going into the playoffs,” senior cornerback Kendall Massey said. “Now we just look at it like any road game is a home game. We’re there to make that place our home turf and send the home team home with a loss.”
The Cougars’ 2010 title game appearance ended in a 44-0 loss to Butler High.
Senior outside linebacker Bryson Hester is the only current Cougars player who was on that team, which was ranked No.1 in the East region.
“In 2010, I think it was just the awe of making it – the first time in school history making it that far,” Lucas said. “I have to make sure these players understand that it is another football game and we’re playing another tough opponent, and it just happens to be the state championship. I want them to focus on the game and not everything involved around the game.”
The Cougars will take the field for their final game Saturday at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium. The 4AA championship is scheduled for 7 p.m.