Vance High senior quarterback Nigel Summerville said the best thing that’s ever happened to him was a change of scenery.
As a freshman and sophomore at Myers Park, Summerville didn’t play much and wondered if he would ever get a chance. He was unhappy with football and school. He and his parents agreed to transfer, and the family moved into the Vance High district in north Charlotte before Summerville’s junior year.
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“For me to become the best football player and best man I could become, the best thing to do was move,” said Summerville, who is 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. “It’s been a huge difference for me and my family. It’s made me a better person on and off the field, and I can’t be thankful enough to (Vance) coach (Aaron) Brand for allowing me to step in here and just take over his program.”
When he started at Vance a year ago, Summerville had never started a varsity game. Playing in a complex passing offense, he started slowly but finished with a flourish. Vance reached the N.C. 4A Western Regional championship game and Summerville finished with 2,981 yards passing and 30 touchdowns.
That tied for the second-most touchdown passes in school history and was among the top 25 performances in Mecklenburg County history.
“I was very surprised at what he was able to do,” Brand said. “He hadn’t had any reps and the system we’re in, it’s all about reps. Reps make you better. We thought we could get him a bunch of throwing reps early and by the time the end of the year came, he would be primed and ready.”
Brand is expecting an even bigger senior season from Summerville, one of just seven starters returning. In fact, he’s expecting an even better season from his team.
The coach believes his linebackers, led by major Division I recruit Power Echols, will be the best in Mecklenburg County. Echols started as a freshman and has nearly a dozen Division I offers.
On offense, receiver Nyier Clark, Brand said, will be a Division I recruit. And California transfer Andrew White, who will play several receiving positions, is a 6-1, 220-pound senior who has a scholarship offer from Fresno State.
“We’ve got the pieces,” Brand said. “And we’ve got the quarterback. (Summerville) fulfilled all the expectations, except winning state. We don’t care if it’s a first-year guy, second-year guy, fourth-year guy, we want to win a championship. We’re tired of coming up just short.”
In his first four seasons, Brand has led his team to the state semifinals three times. In each year, the team that eliminated the Cougars has either won or reached the state championship.
But with an experienced quarterback, Brand believes 2017 is the season Vance can break through.
“It’s his second year in the system,” Brand said. “Now he knows where to go with the football. We spent the whole year trying to figure out where to go with the football last season, and once he got that down, things turned around.”
Summerville said it took awhile, but after he got a grasp on Vance’s offense he began to set big goals for himself. He wants to do something only three previous Mecklenburg County quarterbacks have done before him.
“Last year,” he said, “I was just guessing. I got lucky some, but now I know what I’m doing all the time. I’m comfortable now. So last year, I had 30 touchdowns.
“This year, I want 60.”
Three before him got that many: Davidson Day’s Will Grier (69, 2012) and Independence’s Joe Cox (66, 2004) and Chris Leak (64, 2002).
So does Summerville think he’s ready for that?
“Sixty?,” he said. “Yeah.”
Editor’s note: The Observer is previewing all 16 teams in its preseason Sweet 16 poll. The order will be revealed before the season kicks off Aug. 15.
Top Players: Nigel Summerville, Sr., QB (6-1, 205); Nyier Clark, Sr., WR (5-11, 180); Chris Bacon-Jackson, Jr., OT/DE (6-3, 235); Stefon Thompson, Jr., HB/LB (6-2, 215); Power Echols, So., LB (6-1, 195); Michael Foreman, Sr., OG/NT (6-4, 280); Andre White, Sr., HB (6-1, 215); Nate Lynn, Sr., DE (6-4, 270);
▪ Vance under Aaron Brand
2017: Lost 20-14 to Harding* in 4A regional finals (11-4 overall)
2016: Lost 49-14 to Greensboro Page* in 4AA regional finals (13-2 overall)
2015: Lost 26-20 to Charlotte Catholic* in 4A first round (6-6 overall)
2014: Lost 35-34 to Charlotte Catholic** in 4A regional finals (11-4 overall)
*Denotes eventual state champion; **denotes eventual state runner-up