WAKE FOREST -- One by one, Wake Forest-Rolesville players praised C.J. Shaw before celebrating their 55-23 victory over Millbrook.
Though many players performed well Friday night, the fourth-ranked Cougars (9-1, 6-0 Cap Eight 4-A) knew this game belonged to Shaw.
He played a central role in keeping WF-R's chances of winning a conference title alive. Shaw, a backup defensive lineman who had never played a snap on offense, was forced to start at center with Jacob Baucom sidelined by illness.
"I knew I had to push hard," said Shaw, who learned WF-R's Wing-T offense this week. "I was trying to get everything done right."
The snap-exchange from Shaw to quarterback Cameron Fray never produced a fumble. And once Shaw started to get comfortable, WF-R's offense started gaining yards by chunks.
In the second quarter, the Cougars increased their lead on Millbrook (5-5, 2-4) with runs to the outside. On consecutive drives, running backs Petey Williams and Casty St. Louis each broke through Millbrook's defensive line for long runs. Williams ran for a 52-yard touchdown and St. Louis raced for a 67-yard score.
"Surprisingly, I enjoyed it," Shaw said. "If we open up a hole up, (Williams and St. Louis) are gone. It's awesome when you look up and they're 20 yards down the field."
Williams was impressed with Shaw's ability.
"To me he looked like a natural at it," he said.
Coach Reggie Lucas knows the offensive line is the most important aspect to the Cougars' success on offense. Though WF-R entered Friday's game averaging 35 points, the Cougars haven't thrown the ball more than 10 times in any single game. Lucas relies on this lineman to move defenders out of the way to create paths for the running backs.
Lucas said that's why Shaw was so vital to the Cougars game plan.
"He stepped in, and I thought he did a phenomenal job," Lucas said. "For the coaching staff to make that adjustment was key for us."
When Shaw found out Monday that he was going to have to learn a new position, he sought guidance from many of the same teammates who were proud of him after the game. After all, Shaw helped the Cougars score seven rushing touchdowns.
"At first, I didn't want to go to offense, but this is really fun," Shaw said. "I loved it."
Now, the Cougars will get their chance to win their sixth consecutive conference title when they play Leesville Road (9-0, 6-0) on the road next week.
Even if Shaw, a junior, doesn't play at center against Leesville Road, this is still his first season playing for the Cougars. So, how would it feel to know he helped the Cougars win it?
"It would be like ... the most awesome thing," Shaw said.