The Page Pirates were shutout for the first time in ten years by the Wake Forest Cougars in a 29-0 pounding in the State Championship game of the 4-AA NCHSAA playoffs on Saturday night at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
The first possession for the Pirates looked eerily familiar to the first play of last year’s disappointing championship game. This time, the Pirates were forced to three and out and Thomas Murray’s punt was blocked. Cougar Jaden McKenzie picked up the ball and pranced into the end zone.
The Cougars’ first possession was a seven play, 58-yard drive that ended in a three-yard run by Devon Lawrence to put Wake Forest up 13-0 after Chris Vidal missed the extra-point attempt.
The second quarter opened with a Chris Vidal 22-yard field goal and the Cougars led 16-0. The Cougars then intercepted a Will Jones pass and only two and a half minutes after the field goal, Devon Lawrence (brother of last years’ No. 1 defensive recruit and Clemson lineman Dexter Lawrence) rushed three yards for a touchdown to bring the lead to 23-0.
The Pirates never recovered.
Pirate QB Will Jones threw two interceptions in the opening half, more than he had thrown in a game all season.
The Pirates had only 60 total yards of offense in the first half, a complete 180 from what we have seen from Page all season.
The second half was just as ugly as the first for the Pirates. Will Jones was 5-11 passing for 30 yards and threw two more interceptions. Javon Leake had only eight rushes for 15 yards in the final 24 minutes.
The Pirate defense was one of the only positives in this tearjerker.
The Cougars’ Seth Williams had two interceptions, John Jiles the third, and Jake Campbell the fourth of Jones’ four interceptions.
Wake Forest’s final touchdown came when the Cougars lined up in a wildcat formation and Devon Lawrence tossed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Lex Goodwin.
It was the end of two streaks: the Pirates’ non-shutout streak and Wake County’s lack of a state championship since 1987. Now Wake County has a High School Football State Championship, and, while obtaining that title, the Wake Forest Cougars shutout the most prolific offense in Guilford County this year.
Coach Kevin Gillespie summed things up pretty plainly. “We didn’t execute, they did, and uh, they’re state champs, we’re not.”
“We’ve got a lot of great players. When something bad happened we felt like we had a lot more pressure to do something great, and for whatever reason execute. They blocked a punt, blocked another punt, (gave up) four turnovers. You can’t play like that and expect to win.”
The Pirates’ head coach continued, “I think the first blocked punt set a tone, early.”
“We had dropped balls, missed assignments, four turnovers,” Gillespie said. “When you do that, your offense is going to get off the field quick, defense is going to have to go back (on the field). Every time we had something going, we would have something negative happen. (We’d) get behind the chains, or turn the ball over.”
Will Jones was hard on himself after the loss.
“The receivers spent a lot of time being pressured in coverage downfield, but when they weren’t being covered I made the wrong reads,” the senior quarterback Jones said.
Page’s second trip in two years to the State Championship game ends in despair. The Pirates season wasn’t a total loss by any means, as they finished the year 15-2, and came up with some big wins.
(WF) Jayden McKenzie 10 blocked punt return (Chris Vidal kick)
(WF) Devon Lawrence 2 run (kick failed)
(WF) Vidal 22 Field Goal
(WF) Lawrence 3 run (Vidal kick)
(WF) Lex Goodwin 37 pass from Lawrence (kick failed)