Cougars top Huskies to clinch fourth consecutive conference title

Quite the atmosphere: Game captain Seth Williams #32 and teammates look on as the Huskies prepare for a kick off. Visiting Heritage fans overflowed the seats, took to the hills and lined the track to view the rivalry game.

Austin Julian, Sports Editor

The Cougars won their fourth consecutive conference championship as well as maintaining perfect record for the fourth consecutive regular season with the victory over the Heritage High Huskies 38 to 14 Nov. 3.

The Huskies also came into the game as a 10-0 team.

“It was definitely a big win for us. It was our biggest game coming into the season, so winning that one was important,” senior safety Drew Homschek said.

Around 10,000 people packed Trentini stadium for the game dubbed the “Fight for the Forest,” topping the Eastern Regional final Dec. 5, 2014 when 7,000 fans watched as the Cougars topped the Garner Trojans 27 to 12 to advance to the state championship game.

That match up featured now Heisman candidate Bryce Love (Stanford) facing off against leading Trojan rusher Nyheim Hines (NC State).

But that cold December night was nothing compared to the raucous and balmy November contest where 4,200 tickets were pre-sold, and fans began arriving at the stadium as early as 4:00 p.m. for a 7:00 p.m. kick off.

It felt good, especially with the crowd, and it being a rivalry game. To win in that atmosphere made it better and even more special,” junior kicker Nolan Parris said.

Heritage was first to cross the goal line after a Joshua Coleman interception led to NC State commit Ricky Person’s TD, but their 7-point lead would be short lived.

The Cougars would rattle off 38 straight points on the back of Marquis Dunn’s three TD night.

“It felt good, but that is what I’m supposed to do. It was special because it was senior night and just playing a sport that you love in front of all those people was just a great feeling,” Dunn said.

The excitement wasn’t lost on junior defensive back Mateo Sudipo either.

“It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in that environment. It was a good feeling to overcome the fact that they were first to score. It was overwhelming to perform against great competition, with a great crowd watching the game,” Sudipo said.

Sudipo would later pick off Duke commit Gunnar Homberg and return the ball within the Heritage 5 yard line.

The team’s captains played a big part in leading the team throughout the final game of the regular season. One of those captains, who announced his commitment to UNC after the game, was leading Cougar rusher, Devon Lawrence.

Lawrence finished the season with over 1,000 yards rushing, while senior quarterback Chris James finished the regular season with 16 TDs and threw for over 1,400 yards.

UNC commit, senior safety Javon Terry had 28 total tackles this season and was joined by senior linebacker Seth Williams who amassed 112 total tackles.

“I was excited to be chosen as a captain for the game. It made me feel like my coaches and teammates had faith in me to lead the team and represent our town and team,” Williams said.

The first-ever NAC-VI title is in the books, and there’s no doubt who the best team in the forest is, but the team now have bigger things in mind.

“It felt good. We went out there, executed, and did what we were supposed to do. Our next step is to win a state championship. We just need to listen to whatever coach says, do our job, and execute on the field,” said senior defensive back and wide receiver John Jiles.

Williams, who was the 2016 4AA state championship defensive MVP, is convinced the Cougars have another shot at a state championship.

Williams said, “It gives us a high note to go into the playoffs winning the conference championship, and to beat the third team in the state pretty badly, it just gives us a sense of confidence.”