Cougars turn the page with playoff win

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Grayson Parker and Jackson Cook

2010. That year looms large in the minds of coaches, players and fans alike. Each time the Cougars take the field in historic Trentini stadium, a sign reminds all three groups of the last time the team clinched a Cap-8 title.

Hopes to add to that sign were put in jeopardy when Wakefield’s final drive pushed them ahead (32-16). They were dashed when the Cougars failed to convert a 2-point conversion against a stiff Leesville Pride pass rush to tie the game (21-19).

And then there was the soggy Sanderson game (14-10).

“We took teams for granted,” senior wide receiver Dezmond Clanton said.

The team finished the regular season 8-3 overall and 4-3 in Cap-8 play.

The total deficit of those three losses comes to only 12 points.

“When we put ourselves into position to make plays, we gotta make ‘em. We have to finish when the game is on the line,” senior defensive back Kendall Massey said. Massey had five interceptions in the regular season.

What’s done is done. While fans might dwell on what was and what could have been, coaches must prepare for the new season: postseason play.
And while the string of conference championships was snapped in 2011, the Cougars have earned a spot in the playoffs for eight consecutive years.

The road to the playoffs began with a 28-14 victory over Panther Creek in the regular season opener. Perhaps it was fate that the postseason opener again paired the Catamounts (5th seed) and the Cougars (12th seed). After all, there’s history between the two programs. Wake Forest defeated Panther Creek in 2010 to clinch the Eastern Regional championship.

After the loss to Wakefield, junior running back Bryce Love reflected on the team’s shortcomings.

“We gotta come together more as a team. Gotta learn from failures,” Love said.

On the road Friday night, the Cougars seemed to do just that.

Love and senior Devante Reynolds each scored two TDs to clinch the 35-14 victory.

“We were mentally and physically ready for the game. We came together as a team and played as a team,” Reynolds said after the game.
Panther Creek took an early lead on its second possession of the game, but Love scored on a 56-yard run followed by Reynolds scoring on a 27-yard run to take a 14-6 lead with 7:28 in the half.

“Coach Phipps called the right play, and the line blocked good, the defense was open and we just took what they gave us,” Love said about his 56-yard run.

The second half opened with a 14-14 tie, but the team was determined not to repeat the failures of second half play that marred the regular season.

The Cougars took the second-half kick off and drove 65 yards in 11 plays to score on Mac Moore’s quarterback keeper.

“Everyone was on point, and everyone came together and played like a team,” Moore said.

Two more touchdowns followed in the fourth quarter to put away the game.

Love ran 17 times for 140 yards with Reynolds rushing 11 times for 83 yards and catching three passes for 53 yards.

The team will next face Pinecrest High school (11-1) in Southern Pines, NC. Pincecrest is ranked 26th in the state.

Coach Lucas said, “Friday was a good win, but we have to move on to next week. We have to treat the playoffs like the regular season and take it one week at a time.”