▪ Vance coach Aaron Brand’s motto is “All Gas, No Brakes,” and this season, the Cougars are averaging 35.29 points. That’s down from 37 in 2017 and nearly 49 in 2016. But quarterback Nigel Summerville - who transferred from Myers Park before his junior season - is working on his second straight 3,000-yard season and will be excited to play his old team. The Cougars also have a powerhouse run game, led by Andre White Jr., who had four touchdowns in the quarterfinals last week.
▪ In 12 games, Myers Park sophomore QB Drake Maye has thrown for a school-record 2,974 yards and a school-record 35 touchdowns. He has two Power 5 college recruited receivers in Virginia Tech recruit Elijah Bowick (57 catches, 1,354 yards, 17 TDs) and Muhsin Muhammad (52-898, 7 TDs). Running backs Jatoine Fields, Jacquez Robinson and Tim Newman have combined for 1,425 yards and are averaging 6.41 yards per carry. Maye plays behind a large senior line that has consistently given him time to pass all season.
Advantage: Myers Park
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▪Myers Park allows fewer than 10 points per game, led by linebackers Jake Harkelroad (112 tackles), Roe Chitwood (92) and safety Cameron Roseman-Sinclair (62). Defensive ends Myles Jones and Camden Partington have 16 sacks combined. Defensive backs Trey Bly and Blake Wicks have 11 interceptions combined. And very few Mustangs starters have logged many fourth-quarter minutes.
▪ This is, by far, the best defense Brand has had at Vance. The Cougars have five shutouts, allow just over nine points per game while playing a much more difficult schedule than Myers Park. Vance has size and speed and three of the best linebackers in the state: sophomore middle linebacker Power Echols, junior Stefon Thompson and junior Solomon Sutton. In its past seven games, Vance has played two teams ranked in the 4A top 10 statewide poll plus a conference champion. It’s allowed an average of seven points per Friday in that run.
▪ Before Scott Chadwick got to Myers Park in 2014, the Mustangs weren’t anything close to a state power, with three playoffs wins in the previous nine seasons. With 36 wins the past three seasons, Chadwick has turned out the best winning stretch in school history. He won a 2001 Maryland high school state title, so he knows how to get it done.
▪ Brand has been an assistant on state championship teams at Independence and Mallard Creek, and his peers tell me that Brand is one of the brightest football minds in North Carolina. Before he arrived, Vance had one season with 10 or more wins. This is Brand’s fourth.
Chadwick and Brand both have great staffs.
Vance will be buoyed because it was forced to move a game it felt it should be hosting, but this Myers Park team feels like a movement. It feels like it’s their time, like there’s a new star coming onto the horizon.
WINNER: Myers Park 34, Vance 27