Chris Brown doesn’t touch the ball often, but he knows what to do when the opportunity arises.
The Vance High defensive end picked off a North Mecklenburg pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown in the Cougars’ 28-6 MeCKa 4A win on Friday at Vance. Brown, who played tight end last season, diagnosed a screen pass and jumped into position to pluck the ball out of midair for a 28-0 Cougars lead.
“I played tight end last year and scored no touchdowns,” he said. “This is a good one.”
Vance (6-3, 3-2) intercepted five passes, with cornerback O’quan Bratton picking off a pair that included a 43-yard return for a score in the second quarter. The Cougars, whose playoff chances took a hit last week with a loss to Mallard Creek, rebounded by creating opportunities and converting them into points.
“We took a tough loss last Friday and we took that to heart,” Brown said. “We came back this week, refocused our defense and the boys got the ball.”
Vance was especially adept in defending against the pass, holding North quarterback Polo Dargins to 6-of-16 for 89 yards. Dargins ran for 32 yards on 11 carries with a 21-yard score to help the Vikings (4-5, 2-3) avoid a shutout.
“We made too many mistakes to win the game,” North coach Brad Baker said. “It’s plain and simple. We played them to 0-0 in the first quarter, we were moving the ball effectively but it kind of got away from us with the turnovers and it spiraled downhill from there.”
Vance’s defensive prowess made things easier for the offense, which got touchdown runs of 2 yards from Kyderian Green and 16 from Donavon Spencer. The Cougars rushed for 178 yards, with Bratton leading the way with 78 on nine carries while Spencer added 70 on 14 tries. Despite five fumbles and 11 penalties for 110 yards, Vance had enough big plays to keep their playoff chances alive.
“I’ve got belief in my guys,” Brown said. “There’s no desperation here. We’re going to go out and play hard like we know we can and we did.”
Vance broke the game open with a pair of touchdowns during a span of just more than a minute in the second quarter. Green put the Cougars on top with a 2-yard run he set up with a 27-yard reception on fourth and 10. Bratton turned in the key defensive play of the half when he picked off a North pass and rumbled 43 yards for a touchdown and 14-0 edge at intermission.
North outgained Vance 137 yards to 128, but the Cougars’ 104 yards on the ground helped them control possession while the Cougars defense preserved the shutout. Green ran for 37 yards on seven carries while Bratton added 49 on six tries.
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