Vance High football coach Aaron Brand said he had a feeling that Kingsley Ifedi’s first varsity start would go pretty well.
Ifedi is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior who won’t turn 16 until Saturday. Last week, he completed 23-of-33 passes for 440 yards and six touchdowns in a season-opening 54-12 win over West Mecklenburg. He set a school-record for passing yardage in a single game and tied Paul Troth’s 15-year-old school-record for passing touchdowns in a single game.
Next up for Vance, No. 3 in the Sweet 16? Friday night’s game at No. 14 Providence. Brand thinks his new quarterback – already receiving college interest from N.C. State, Stanford, Notre Dame, East Carolina and Wake Forest – can keep up that type of performance all season.
“It was just part of our expectation for him,” Brand said. “He’s the next man up. We expect him to do great things. We’ve taught him to expect great things of himself, and it doesn’t hurt that he has the type guys around him that he has.”
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I’m harder on quarterbacks than any other position. I think they should be leaders. And that’s what Kingsley has become.
Vance football coach Aaron Brand on quarterback Kingsley Ifedi
Brand, who has coached state championship-level teams at Independence and Mallard Creek, said his current group of receivers is among the three best he’s ever coached.
They include Ifedi’s brother, Jonathan, a 6-1, 195-pound senior committed to Georgia State; 6-3, 225-pound junior Jeremiah Hall, who has a 4.7 GPA and an offer from N.C. State; running back Donnavan Spencer, a 5-10, 185-pound Western Carolina commit who had nearly 3,000 yards total offense last season; and 6-3, 200-pound senior Myles Dorn, who sports offers from multiple SEC and ACC schools plus Charlotte, East Carolina and Kansas State, among others.
“These guys working with Kingsley are really sharp guys,” Brand said. “And Dorn just makes it easy for anybody. He’s got the best hand-eye coordination I’ve ever coached. He is pretty tough to tackle and is a 350-pound bench guy. Everybody thinks he’s got this thin, muscular frame. He’s the second strongest bench on our team.”
Kingsley Ifedi said having that type of talent around him has made his transition to varsity starter much easier. As a freshman at Berry, he was one of about a half dozen guys vying for a spot on the junior varsity at quarterback. Ifedi said Berry had several juniors and sophomores in front of him and he wanted to play, so he voluntarily moved to defensive end. Then he broke his collarbone in the Cardinals’ last scrimmage and missed his freshman year.
23 Completions, in 33 attempts, for Kingsley Ifedi against West Mecklenburg on Friday
440 Passing yards for Ifedi in that game, his first varsity start
6 Touchdown passes in the game, tying a school record set 15 years ago
Ifedi transferred to Vance – his natural home school – before his sophomore year and played quarterback on the Vance junior varsity. Brand had a solid senior at quarterback, Omar Baker Jr., but took one look at Ifedi’s natural throwing motion and great size and he knew he had the quarterback of the future. Brand said he began to coach Ifedi very hard.
“I knew he had the measurables,” Brand said, “but I didn’t know if he had the will or the guts. It’s tough. I don’t want to be a browbeater, but I’m harder on quarterbacks than any other position. I think they should be leaders. And that’s what Kingsley has become.”
Baker Jr. led Vance to an 11-4 record in 2014 and a berth in the N.C. 4A semifinals before the Cougars lost to Charlotte Catholic 35-34. Vance had a two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds to win and advance to its first state final. Almost as soon as it failed, Brand stepped up his grooming of Ifedi.
“Since the day after the Catholic game, coach Brand has been on my back to be a leader on and off the field, and to bring it every rep,” Ifedi said. “He’s stressed being ‘on point.’”
Brand said Ifedi accepted all the instruction and often sought out his brother and his other receivers for additional work outside of summer practices. Ifedi said he carries a 4.0 GPA and has a schedule that includes AP English, AP U.S. History and two honors classes, in pre-calculus and chemistry.
“He just soaks up information,” Brand said. “You wonder if you’re giving him too much. He’s such a young kid, but he can take it and I give it to him. He’s a worker and he can take criticism. He’s not a pouter. Honestly, he’s been a delight.”
I think he’ll be one of the top quarterbacks around by the start of next year, and he will be able to write his own ticket.
Vance coach Aaron Brand on quarterback Kingsley Ifedi, who already has major-college interest
Last Friday, Ifedi showed how well he’s handling the coaching and how well he prepared. He peppered West Mecklenburg with passes early and often. His first scoring pass, in the first quarter, was an 81-yarder to his brother Jonathan. His sixth, in the fourth quarter, was a 42-yarder to Dorn.
“I realize every game won’t be as easy as Friday,” Ifedi said. “I know I have to bring every week. The schedule will only get harder.”
Brand, his coach, believes his junior quarterback is more than ready to handle it.
“I think he’ll be one of the top quarterbacks around by the start of next year,” Brand said, “and he will be able to write his own ticket if he can stay to the grind and keep his composure. I don’t know of a quarterback with a higher upside. He’s 6-3, 215 with a rocket arm. You don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining things to Kingsley. This is a kid, man, who is going to be awful special.”
Langston Wertz Jr: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr