By Lisa Brown
Not very long ago, Wake Forest High School (Wake Forest-Rolesville High back then) did not have much luck on the football field. But, both the 2013 and 2014 seasons ended with a trip to N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-AA state championship, playing Mallard Creek High School both times.
The Cougars have yet to bring the champions’ title home, but their accomplishment is recognized by coaches and the community.
Reggie Lucas, head coach of the team, is proud, not just of the natural talent many of these players have, but also of the attitudes they bring with them every day.
“They really enjoy playing football, and don’t want the season to end,” Lucas says.
But willingness and love of the game aren’t the only requirements for a team to be so successful.
“The players have each other’s backs, and spend time together on and off the field,” Lucas says.
The team is known for its standouts, including some being courted for scholarships at schools all over the country. However, Lucas is most impressed by the players “who show up every day, don’t get to play much, but don’t complain. They’re my favorite players.”
Four Cougars coaches are former WF-RHS students and football players, including Lucas, which helps create more of a community environment. It’s this feeling of family and cohesiveness that Lucas thinks makes them a winning team.
The players have opinions about what has made and continues to make WFHS Cougars so successful, and it’s much the same as Lucas’ impressions.
Senior Dajaun Green, a running back, echoes Lucas’s statement that the players are as much a team on the field as they are off. “Everyone hangs out together, and it makes a difference on the field,” he says. Green is also impressed with the seasoned coaching staff and its ability to play to each player’s strengths and know exactly how to work them and challenge them.
Freshman Devon Lawrence, also a running back, exudes both confidence and talent with what appears to be a good high school football career ahead of him. After his first year with the team he notes there is “good chemistry between players, and we feel like we’ve known each other for a long time.”
The team extends out to the training staff, which is led by Head Athletic Trainer Rick Baker. Baker reiterates the overwhelming respect and closeness of the team and coaching staff.
“I’ve been around a lot of teams, and there is something intangible about this group of players and coaches,” he says. “They truly care about one another, and that’s not something you can teach.”
Baker says the team’s seniors and juniors set good examples for the underclassman and the younger players not only look up to the upperclassmen but follow them in attitude and behavior. “They’re demonstrating real leadership and respect, and we can see it on and off the field,” he says.
Lucas knew the game with Mallard Creek would be challenging. Mallard Creek is one of the top recruiting schools, and many of its players move on to well-known colleges. But Lucas felt his team had a good chance to win this year. “The team is very confident and playing well,” he said prior to the game. “We are going to win this.”
Unfortunately, the 25-14 end result was not as hoped and planned. It was Wake Forest’s first loss of the season.
Regardless of the defeat, this year’s team will continue to be known as winners. Some graduating students will be moving on college teams and scholarships; some will leave football behind. Underclassmen will return in the fall to continue the tradition of being a respectful and close team.
Coaches and players alike are looking forward to a new season with a new chance to win.
Lawrence is excited to continue the legacy, of not just the team’s scoring and winning success, but carrying on the team’s spirit and bond. Things aren’t always easy between team members but regardless, they will continue to take care of one another, increasing their chances of another great season.
“Even when we argue we still pick each other up,” Lawrence says.