High School Sports

Friday’s roundup: Vance trying to find gas on offense to go with its defensive brakes

Vance High football coach Aaron Brand hopes to win his seventh state championship as a player or coach this season
Vance High football coach Aaron Brand hopes to win his seventh state championship as a player or coach this season

Vance HIgh coach Aaron Brand loves offense. He’s been offensive coordinator for high-scoring state championship teams at Mallard Creek and Independence high schools. And for the past few seasons at Vance, he’s developed a high-octane style he calls “All Gas, No Brakes” that frequently has the Cougars running up the points.

So it’s kind of baffled Brand why his 2018 Cougars have been sluggish offensively this season. After Friday’s 51-0 win over previously unbeaten Rocky River, Vance is on track for a big Saturday showdown with Mallard Creek Sept. 22, but between now and then, Brand said he’s got to “fix” a Cougars’ offense that is averaging 36 points per game.

“We’ve have not gotten full go on offense yet, although we did play better tonight,” Brand said Friday after his team, ranked No. 7 in the Sweet 16, improved to 3-0. “It’s just we feel we should score every time. We have punted four times all year, but the problem is I’ve got to call better plays on fourth-and-inches. Honestly, it’s a combination of things.


“We’re just not playing fast enough. Every defense we play is on their heels from the thought of what we might do, but the quarterback (Nigel Summerville) is getting better every week and (H-Back) Andre Wright is as good as anybody around.”

Wright, a transfer from Oakland, Calif., is a game-breaking talent who can be a running back or a devastating run-after-the-catch tight end type of receiver. Brand said his main goal with Wright is to find him mismatches against smaller or slower defenders.

And on defense, former Hough coach Miles Aldridge, Vance’s defensive coordinator, is overseeing a unit that’s allowing 11 points per game and, according to Brand, getting better every week.

Vance’s defense is built around its group of linebackers. Junior Stefon Thompson (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) has scholarship offers from North Carolina, Colorado State and Appalachian State. Junior Solomon Sutton (6-1, 212) has a UNC offer. And Brand believes sophomore Power Echols (6-1, 205) is the best defensive player in Charlotte.

He said Echols has offers from Appalachian State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Michigan State, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech, among others.

“Aldridge is doing a great job with that group,” Brand said of his defense. “We have had 13 turnovers in three games. It feels like we didn’t have 13 turnovers in three years.”

Brand has won six state championships as a high school football player, a high school track coach and high school football assistant. He thinks if he can get his offense going the way he wants, he can add a state championship as a head football coach to his resume.

That would be lucky No. 7.

“Man,” he said, “you know I’m going to try. I really like this group.”

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Friday’s Game Coverage

(Click link for coverage)

Weddington takes down Porter Ridge in Sweet 16 showdown

Catholic wears down Country Day, wins 6th straight Cook Cup

Maye-Bowick combo leads Myers Park past Providence

Unbeaten Vance shuts down Rocky River

Friday’s top performers

Friday’s Elevator

Independence High quarterback Luke McPhail threw for six touchdown passes in the Patriots’ season-opening win over Hopewell Friday Independence High School Special to the Observer

Independence QB Luke McPhail: After Olympic’s Sean Bowles scored to give his team a 34-32 lead with 55 seconds left, McPhail drove the Patriots down the field and threw a touchdown to Brian Morgan for the game-winner with 19.6 seconds left. Independence won 38-34 and improved to 2-0.

Charlotte Christian’s JB Awolowo: In the first quarter of a 58-0 win over Covenant Day, Awolowo had two sacks, one 49-yard punt return for a touchdown, one 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 21-yard run for a touchdown. He finished with 166 yards total offense.

Charlotte Catholic defense: In three weeks, the Cougars have allowed nine points. Catholic beat Country Day 20-3 Friday to win its sixth straight Cook Cup

Kujuan Pryor, Lawndale Burns: Two fourth-quarter touchdown runs, covering 17 and 57 yards, in a 26-14 win over rival Shelby.

By The Numbers

3-0: SouthLake Christian has not had a winning season since 2014. After Friday’s 6-3 win over North Raleigh Christian, SouthLake is 3-0 for coach Michael Causey and has allowed just nine points in two weeks.

49: Hough kicker Camden Lewis, a Minnesota recruit, made a 49-yard field goal in Friday’s 33-0 win over Concord. It’s the second-longest in school history. Lewis made a 51-yarder last season.

27-10: Since going 8-5 in 2010, their last winning season, West Charlotte’s Lions have averaged 2.7 wins per year. After Friday’s 27-10 win over reigning N.C. 4A champion Harding (again playing without top 10 national recruit Quavaris Crouch), West Charlotte is 2-1.

Friday’s Top Performers

Myers Park wide receiver Elijah Bowick had a huge game Friday in a 55-14 win over rival Providence. Bowick has committed to Virginia Tech. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Elijah Bowick, Myers Park: Mustangs senior receiver, who committed to Virginia Tech, caught four passes for 146 yards in the first half of a 55-14 win over Providence. Those included a 72-yarder for a score on the game’s first possession and a 46-yard Hail Mary touchdown to close the half.

Elijah Burris, Mountain Island Charter: Had five touchdowns in a 68-8 win over Graham. He had four rushing and one receiving.

Nick King, Charlotte Catholic: In a 20-3 win over Charlotte Country Day, King had a fumble recovery and three sacks.

Whitner Litton, Weddington: Senior QB was 13-of-25 passing for 180 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-12 win over Union County rival Indian Trail Porter Ridge. Weddington is No. 16 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll. Porter Ridge is No. 13.

Stefon Thompson, Vance: Defensive end had a 45-yard interception return for a score, plus two sacks in a 51-0 win over previously unbeaten Rocky River. QB Nigel Summerville threw for 150 yards, two scores and ran for one. Receiver Nyier Clark caught five passes for 80 yards and two scores.

Friday’s Roundup

No. 10 Richmond Senior 28, Pine Forest 0: Richmond, which plays No. 5 Butler next week, held Pine Forest to eight first downs and 96 yards total offense. Jahiem Covington ran 14 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

No. 16 Maiden 49, Bunker Hill 0: Bain Sipe threw for 162 yards and ran for 41 yards and accounted for two touchdowns in an easy win. Maiden outgained Bunker Hill 475-17.

East Mecklenburg 48, Berry 30: East (1-2) got its first win of the season, despite a huge game from Berry QB Jalen Wallace. Wallace threw four touchdown passes covering 80, 18, 100 and 85 yards. Berry led 18-0 and 24-7 before East Meck roared back. Despite five turnovers, East QB Trey Tuitt helped his team to the win with four touchdown passes, covering 28, 15, 22 and 55 yards.

Alexander Central 54, North Iredell 3: Lyndon Strickland ran seven times for 115 yards and two touchdowns in an easy win. Alexander had 383 yards of offense. North managed 41 on 38 plays.