Lake Norman & Mooresville

Cougars announce new football coach

Winston-Salem Hall of Fame football coach Keith Wilkes will start at Vance High School this week.

He hopes to make the Cougars consistent winners.

"I set high standards for myself," said Wilkes, 48, who is leaving a job at an Atlanta-area elementary school and moved to the area this past weekend. "I want to bring our kids to another level. I'm on the back end of my coaching career and I want to try to get the kids to see there's more to them than they can see. It's about getting the kids to believe in themselves, to believe they have a future. You give kids hope, you'll have a good bunch."

Wilkes replaces Phil Culicerto, who coached Vance in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Vance was 5-7 last season under interim coach Billy Leeson and has only had one winning season in the past five years. Wilkes, part of the 2011 class of the Winston-Salem/Forysth County High School Sports Hall of Fame, built quite a tradition at Winston-Salem Carver.

From 1992-2007, his teams were 139-62-1 with 11 conference titles and state championships in 1998 and 2003. Wilkes was 9-21 at Shiloh High in Snellsville, Ga., for three seasons before resigning last year.

At Vance, Wilkes said he is excited taking over a program with great potential.

Vance has "always had potential to be a strong program," Wilkes said. "That's what I saw, possibilities and potential. Now, it's about putting hard work and dedication back into the program, from the administration all the way to the community. It could be a good place to work."

Wilkes' teams will run the Wing-T offense, a run-heavy offense used by South Mecklenburg and Charlotte Catholic, with a little twist. Wilkes likes to use more spread formations and throw it some.

"I've always been known for having a real aggressive program," said Wilkes, a former All-America offensive lineman at Winston-Salem State, "and we'll be aggressive from Day One, from working in the weight room and then taking it to the field. You want to call it the new Vance? Well it's a new era, yes sir, it is."