A game loaded with coaching gambles ended Friday night with Vance quarterback Kingsley Ifedi dashing into the end zone on a two-point conversion in overtime that lifted the Cougars to a 50-49 4AA quarterfinal victory at Butler.
Vance coach Aaron Brand, who has gambled on two-point conversions in past seasons, decided to go for the victory in overtime after Ifedi had tied the game on a 3-yard run.
The victory sends the Cougars (13-1) into the West Regional final (state semifinals) next Friday at Greensboro Page. Butler finished 12-2. It was the second straight overtime victory for Vance, which edged Myers Park 41-38 last week.
Butler had the ball first in overtime and scored on a 5-yard pass from Davis Cheek to D.J. Little. Ryan Schaar kicked his seventh extra point of the game, giving the Bulldogs a 49-42 lead.
That set the stage for the heroics by Ifedi, who has committed to play at East Carolina.
Butler appeared headed for victory in the closing minutes of regulation. After Vance tied the game at 42 on a 9-yard Kalen Clark run with 45 seconds left, the Bulldogs took over at their 42. Cheek completed a 9-yard pass to Kusegi Cureton and then a 37-yard pass to Little at the Vance 12.
The Bulldogs were well within field goal range for Schaar, but they went for a touchdown. On the next play, Vance cornerback Isaiah Ely-Bembry picked off a Cheek pass in the end zone, and the Cougars ran out the clock, forcing overtime.
The first half was loaded with momentum shifts. It ended with four touchdowns in the final six minutes of the second period.
After forcing Vance to punt on its first series, Butler drove 84 yards and scored on a 1-yard keeper by Cheek.
Then the Cougars caught fire. They evened the score on a 5-yard run by Ifedi midway in the first quarter, and after forcing Butler to punt, Vance went ahead on a 28-yard pass from Ifedi to Michael Roberts late in the period.
The Cougars weren’t finished, driving 85 yards for their third touchdown midway in the second quarter on a 13-yard run by Markilius Williams. That gave Vance a 21-7 lead.
Williams was called for an excessive celebration penalty, and the 15-yard infraction helped give Butler good field position on the next possession. The Bulldogs responded by going 53 yards in four plays, scoring on a 1-yard Nijere Peoples run.
Vance went three-and-out on its next series, and Butler tied the game on a 44-yard pass from Cheek to Cureton with 2:41 left in the half.
The Cougars regained momentum, going 80 yards and scoring with 5 seconds left in the half on an Ifedi 4-yard run. The key play in that drive was a 29-yard pass from Ifedi to Williams.
Records: Vance is 13-1; Butler finished 12-2.
Worth mentioning: Vance and Butler hadn’t played each other since 2012, when Butler won 48-6. Butler carried a 9-1 series lead over Vance into Friday’s game. … The two schools are marking their 20th anniversaries. … Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools interim Superintendent Ann Clark, Vance’s first principal, watched the game from the sideline. … Ifedi ran for 160 yards and passed for another 165. … Butler’s Cheek had a big game, completing 23 of 27 passes for 435 yards. … Cureton of Butler had eight catches for 181 yards.
What’s next: Vance will play at Greensboro Page next Friday; Butler’s season is finished.
Vance 14 14 7 7 8 -- 50
Butler 7 14 14 7 7 -- 49
B -- Davis Cheek 1 run (Ryan Schaar kick)
V -- Kingsley Efidi 5 run (James Palacios kick)
V -- Michael Roberts 28 pass from Efidi (Palacios kick)
V -- Markilius Williams 13 run (Palacios kick)
B -- Nigere Peoples 1 run (Schaar kick)
B -- Kusegi Cureton 44 pass from Cheek (Schaar kick)
V -- Efidi 4 run (Palacios kick)
B -- Dirk Cureton 67 pass from Cheek (Schaar kick)
V -- Efidi 6 run (Palacios kick)
B -- D.J. Little 10 pass from Cheek (Schaar kick)
B -- D. Cureton 38 pass from Cheek (Schaar kick)
V -- Kalen Clark 9 run (Palacios kick)
B -- Little 5 pass from Cheek (Schaar kick)
V -- Efidi 2 run (Efidi run)