The Vance Cougars found a variety of ways to score Friday night.
And while they didn’t do it early, they did it often enough to take a 61-24 victory over visiting Ardrey Kell in the first round of the N.C. 4AA football playoffs.
Isaiah Ely-Bembry returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown and junior safety Teonne Porter ran an interception back 25 yards for another score as the Cougars broke the game open in the first quarter. There were few anxious moments after that.
Running back M.J. Williams gained 139 yards on nine carries, including touchdown runs of 22 and 48 yards. Quarterback Kingsley Ifedi passed for 147 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another for the Cougars.
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Ardrey Kell quarterback Cameron Bauer passed for 153 yards and a touchdown and ran for another. But both came too late for the Knights, who trailed 40-10 at halftime and 54-17 at the end of the third quarter.
Vance got another special-teams touchdown from wide receiver Jaylen Carr on a 90-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, just after Merrick Haston’s 1-yard touchdown run had pulled Ardrey Kell to within 40-17. That was as close as it would come in the second half.
Vance took its largest lead at 61-17 after a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ifedi to Jeremiah Hall and Williams’ second touchdown run of the game.
The game was played with a running clock for the final nine minutes.
Records: Ardrey Kell finishes 6-6; Vance improved to 11-1.
Observations: It didn’t make any difference in the outcome, but the Cougars were penalized 14 times for 130 yards.
Vance had to overcome some early hiccups before they finally got on track. Penalties — see above — derailed an opening drive which almost reached the red zone. And Williams, who later redeemed himself with the two touchdowns, fumbled the ball away at the Ardrey Kell 5 on their second possession.
Worth mentioning: Ely-Bembry had another long punt return in the third quarter, breaking loose for 44 yards before being stopped at the Knights’ 38 and setting up another Vance score.
What's Next: Ardrey Kell’s season is over. Vance plays next week at Myers Park in the second round. The Mustangs beat Northwest Guilford 42-27.
Ardrey Kell 0 10 7 7 24
Vance 20 20 14-7 61
V-Kingsley Ifedi 3 run (kick failed)
V-Isaiah Ely-Bembry 55 punt return (James Palacios kick)
V-Teonne Porter 25 interception return (Palacios kick)
AK-Jarrett Wright 36 FG
V-M.J. Williams 23 run (Palacios kick)
AK-Jaylen Erwin 58 pass from Cameron Bauer (Wright kick)
AK-Jaylen Carr 26 pass from Ifedi (Palacios kick)
V-Kaylen Clark 1 run (run failed)
AK-Merrick Haston 1 run (Wright kick)
V-Carr 90 kickoff return (Palacios kick)
V-Jeremiah Hall 4 pass fem Ifedi (Palacios kick)
V-Williams 48 run (Palacios kick)
AK- Bauer 8 run (Wright kick)