University City

New coach, returning talent will compete for state title

Vance was the trendy pick when the 2011 football season kicked off. The Cougars had many believing they were poised to take the next step and back up their impressive 2010 season, which they finished 11-4.

The Cougars had done the unthinkable in slowing down the mighty Mallard Creek offense to get an improbable win in a playoff game on their biggest rivals' home field.

With a lot of that talent returning , Vance was picked to be one of Mecklenburg County's best teams. The Cougars were thought to be the only I-Meck 4A Conference team that had a chance to contend with the Mavericks, who were loaded with NCAA Division I-quality talent at seemingly every position.

Then the problems started, and the Cougars took a long time to get on track.

Head coach Phil Culicerto was dismissed a few days before the season started for school-related problems. Players transferred, the locker room was divided, and the team struggled, beginning the year just 1-6.

A late-season winning streak got them into the playoffs, but the Cougars had too many issues and fell to Ardrey Kell in the opening round.

But the Cougars will return the core of their team next fall and have just hired a new coach, Keith Wilkes, who will be expected to turn the team back into a conference championship-caliber team.

Wilkes is an experienced coach who should be able to step in and take the talented Cougars back to 2010. He has taken Winston-Salem's Carver High School to two state titles. The team returns the talent to compete not only for the conference title - however the realigned conferences shake out - but also for a state championship.