Late safety lifts Wake Forest past Vance for third straight state title
Wake Forest took down Vance 9-7 for its third straight 4AA state championship and 45th consecutive win in Durham on Friday night.
Vance drew first blood quickly, when on the second play from scrimmage Nyier Clark hauled in a 53-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Nigel Summerville.
Vance’s offensive gameplan of outside runs and go routes to limit the effect of Wake Forest’s stout defensive interior and expose the Cougars’ more questionable secondary was successful early.
“I thought the defense was really gutsy, really gritty,” head coach Reggie Lucas said of his defense’s improvement. “After that first play, giving up that big play in the first quarter, but we didn’t change a whole lot. I think we just had the kids where they were comfortable and could just go out and play.
But as he’s done all year, Mateo Sudipo made a play for Wake Forest, picking off an errant throw from Summerville and returning it.
“I knew they were gonna throw the ball,” Sudipo said of the pick. “No. 6 was on my side he’s their best offensive player, the quarterback just overthrew the ball... and it fell in my hands.
“It felt like we needed that boost, because our team tends to start off games really slow.”
Sudipo and the offense marched down the field, and a pass to South Carolina-commit Traevon Kenion looked like it was good for a score, but he was marked short.
Two plays later, Maquel Haywood took a hand-off from Sudipo and took it into the end zone for a touchdown. The successful PAT made it 7-7.
Both defenses stiffened from that point, preventing any more scoring for the duration of the first half.
Vance outgained Wake Forest 142-108 in terms of offensive yardage in the first half.
Wake Forest started with the ball in the third quarter, but Sudipo threw a pick of his own.
The Wake Forest defense held Vance in check despite the favorable field position.
Both teams traded three-and-outs for the rest of the third quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, a botched snap on a Vance punt from deep in its own territory gave Wake Forest the ball at the Vance 14-yard line.
Wake Forest was stopped, and a Nolan Parris field goal was blocked.
Vance jumped on the ball inside its own one, and Wake Forest forced a safety on the next play to take a 9-7 lead.
“After the blocked field goal our guys were kind of dragging,” Lucas said. “And I heard one of my coaches say in the background ‘Just go get a safety’ and then we started yelling ‘Get a safety,’ and then I saw yeah, the ball was right there, and they went out there and they gave a little more energy, and we were fortunate enough to do it.”
On the ensuing onside kick attempt, Wake Forest recovered to seal the victory.
After the game, Sudipo was recognized as the game’s MVP. While his offensive numbers were far from gaudy, his interception was the tipping point and kept his team from falling behind by two scores in what wound up being such a low-scoring game.