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First impression: Receiver Dortch shines bright in debut for Wake Forest

September 3, 2017 GMT

After redshirting for the 2016 season, Greg Dortch made a heck of a first impression for Wake Forest.

The redshirt freshman from Richmond, Va., made two touchdown catches and had a head-turning punt return Thursday as the Deacons raced out to a 37-0 halftime lead in their 51-7 victory against Presbyterian.

“The whole day today I was telling myself I haven’t played in almost two years and just let it come to me and don’t force anything,” Dortch said.

His first receiving touchdown in a Wake Forest uniform — his favorite play of the game — came on a pass from starting quarterback John Wolford in traffic over the middle. He evaded tacklers and fought his way into the end zone to extend the Deacons’ lead to 30-0. His second touchdown came on a 42-yard pass from reserve quarterback Kendall Hinton on Wake Forest’s next-to-last drive of the first half.

To put a signature on his breakout performance, Dortch ran the opening kickoff of the second half 96 yards up the middle of the field for a touchdown. That run, however, was taken off the board because of a holding penalty.

Only when he was celebrating with a pair of teammates did Dortch find out it was all for naught.

“When I got to the back of the end zone and (receiver) Chucky Wade, he hugged me, and then (tight end) Jack Freudenthal came, and I turned around and I seen the yellow flag,” Dortch said. “It’s all right though. I’ll get another one.”

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson mentioned in his weekly meeting with reporters on Tuesday the receiving corps was as deep as it has been since he arrived at Wake Forest in 2014. That’s a sentiment that was echoed by Wolford following Thursday’s win.

“What’s nice for me is it’s not just Greg. It’s Tabari (Hines), it’s Scotty (Washington), it’s (Cortez Lewis), it’s Chuck Wade, Cam (Serigne) had a big game; so the more weapons you have, the more you get those guys the ball in space, you get some big plays,” Wolford said. “It was nice to see (Greg) show his ability for his first year.”

Dortch’s final stat line against Presbyterian: four catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns, four punt returns for 76 yards, and one kick return for 25 yards. He was the only Wake Forest player at a skill position with more than 100 total yards, finishing the night with 156.

“We’ve not had a lot of explosive plays here, you know; you throw the ball short and it becomes a long play,” Clawson said. “And Greg can get behind people, he can double move people. And even some of the 6- and 7-yard plays he had on screens, those could have been 1-yard or 2-yard plays; and he makes people miss, and he gets his positive yards.

“So it was a really good debut for him.”

Dortch’s playmaking ability is nothing new. He finished his senior season for Highland Springs High in Richmond, Va., with 55 catches for 1,029 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. He was the 2015 state Class 5-A Player of the Year and was named the All-Metro Player of the Year by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

In the fifth game of his senior season, Dortch caught a pass near the left sideline, cut back toward the middle of the field, made six defenders miss on tackles, won a foot race with two more defenders, and scored on an 80-yard touchdown play.

While there was a one-year hold placed on his debut with the Deacons, what fans saw Thursday could be just the beginning.