Unfazed by the evening’s wintry chill, the Demon Deacons launched a fast-paced attack from the start. UNC kicked a penalty goal to put the first points on the board, but a strong Wake Forest defense forced a turnover on the restart, giving the hungry Deacs possession deep in Tarheel territory. Freshman Marshal Nimik seized the opportunity to touch down the first try and senior Johnny McMurray nailed the kick, stretching the score to 7-3.
Wake Forest kept pressure on the Tarheels and drew a penalty that put McMurray’s boot to good use once more, lifting the black and gold to 10-3.
The Deacon defense soon forced another UNC handling error, which was scooped up by senior Jack Zimmerman, who wasted no time clearing 10 meters down the touch line to score a try at the half. Following another conversion by McMurray, both teams broke for the half with Wake Forest leading 17-3.
10 minutes into the second half, McMurray claimed his place on the highlight reel by chasing down his own high ball and jumping to steal the catch from UNC’s fullback before sprinting 25 meters to boost Wake Forest’s lead by another 5 points.
The Deacon squad showed fatigue as slow support at the breakdowns led to a series of holding penalties, but the momentum shifted back in Wake’s favor as Senior Liam McIntyre stole a UNC lineout. Zimmerman passed to McMurray, setting up freshman Austin Cunningham for a 60 meter break that resulted in the evening’s fourth try; McMurray’s conversion brought the score to 29-3.
Substitutions brought fresh legs onto the pitch, but created some miscommunication that allowed UNC to break through Wake’s otherwise steady defense to score their first try of the night. The missed conversion left the score at 29-8 and fired up the Demon Deacons, who quickly pressured the Tarheels into giving up another penalty well within McMurray’s range.
Wake soon won another lineout just 5 meters away from the try line, working the ball wide, center and wide again before finding space for freshman Mitch D’eramo to slide around the corner and change the scoreboard to 37-8.
McMurray put in one last penalty kick as time grew short, but the Tarheels weren’t finished. UNC stole possession off the ensuing kickoff, then knocked the ball on and gave Wake a scrum only to regain possession and work the ball out wide for a try that brought the final score to 40-13.
This win was the first of the season for Wake Forest and showcased both the team’s promising talent and the strength of its senior leaders, who have been essential in keeping the program on track throughout a difficult transition period.
As the rest of the ACRL teams play out their final matches, Wake Forest will take advantage of using their final bye week to prepare for the upcoming ACRL 7s tournament on Nov. 9th; the tournament will be held in Raleigh and will give the Demon Deacons a chance to qualify for the USA College 7s National Championship.