- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (AP) - Reggie Lucas of Wake Forest is the 2016 Associated Press prep football coach of the year for North Carolina.

In voting results announced Friday, Lucas received 12 of 23 votes from sports writers at newspapers across the state.

Shelby’s Lance Ware had four votes and David Gentry of Murphy had three. Ware led Shelby (16-0) to a fourth straight championship while the 70-year-old Gentry coached Murphy (15-1) to the 1-A title.

Lucas led Wake Forest to a 16-0 record, and the Cougars’ first 4-AA championship also was the first for a Wake County program since 1987. He’s taken Wake Forest to four NCHSAA championship games since 2010 - more than any other school in the county.

He called it “a team accomplishment, more than any individual.”

“I don’t win that award without my assistant coaches,” he added.

Lucas has built a budding powerhouse at Wake Forest, needing just eight years to reach the 100-win mark at his alma mater and compiling a 101-15 record at the school. One of the stars from last year’s team - defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, the 2015 AP defensive player of the year in North Carolina - will start for Clemson in the national championship game Monday night against Alabama.

The AP released its 29-player all-state team Thursday and Wake Forest had two players selected - defensive lineman Xach Gill and linebacker Darius Hodge. Gill is a North Carolina recruit while Hodge has committed to North Carolina State.

That defense helped the Cougars claim the state title with a 29-0 rout of Greensboro Page. Wake Forest held Page to just 142 total yards and intercepted four passes.

“I told them, ‘You guys have a right to call yourselves the best defense that we’ve had so far,’” Lucas said, “and I think they played that way in the championship game.”

The Cougars’ found a way to keep themselves balanced on offense while running the wing-T formation, with two running backs each reaching 1,500 yards while also producing another 500-yard rusher.

They rallied from halftime deficits in playoff wins against Wilmington Laney and Wake Forest Heritage, and survived overtime to beat Apex Middle Creek and reach the final.

“Really, throughout the playoffs, we had some tough games,” Lucas said. “By the time we got to the championship game, we felt we were mentally and physically prepared.

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