Vance High football coach Aaron Brand feels his team is in a funk. The Cougars have lost two of their past three games, and last week’s 14-13 win over a Hopewell team that has lost nine straight didn’t incite a lot of confidence among the Cougars.
“And I’m a motivator,” Brand said. “We’ve got to find our niche, find our groove again.”
So Brand is looking to Thursday night’s game at Hough as a way of restoring some confidence to his team, once ranked among the state’s top 10 4A teams, before the playoffs begin next week. Vance (6-4, 2-3 MECKA) also hopes to spoil a potential celebration for Hough (9-1, 5-0). Hough has already clinched a share of the MECKA championship and can win its first outright title. The Huskies lead Mallard Creek (8-2, 4-1) by one game heading into the final game of regular-season play.
Hough has won five straight games and shut out two opponents during that run. Thursday night, Hough can tie the school record for wins and secure the school’s third straight 10-win season.
And because Hough upset Mallard Creek 31-28 on Oct. 9, the Huskies should get the conference’s No. 1 playoff seed when brackets are announced Saturday afternoon. For Vance, Thursday’s game represents a chance to get a big win and jump-start its season.
Brand said the troubles began with a 31-14 loss to A.L. Brown Oct. 5 when star tailback Donnavan Spencer (hamstring) and five other starters sat out with injuries. Spencer hasn’t been able to get healthy, and other nagging injuries have hurt a team with just 36 players. The swagger Vance played with early this season, Brand said, is missing.
“We’ve got some front-runners and I’ve got to (rein) them in,” Brand said. “As confidence goes, as always I’ve got to find a way to get to this group.”
Soccer Playoff Roundup
South Meck 5, West Meck 0: South Meck moved up 13 spots in the latest Top Drawer Soccer national rankings to land at No. 12. The Sabres are the highest-ranked team from North Carolina. Wednesday, South got two goals from Tomas Figuieredo and two assists each from Carter Walters and Collyn Carpenter in an easy win. Harish Amatya got the shutout for the Sabres (18-0-2).
Hough 4, West Forsyth 0: AJ Whisenant had two goals and an assist for Hough (17-2-3) which won its first-round playoff game easily. Liam Dolaher had the shutout. West Forsyth ended its season at 9-9-5.
Community School of Davidson 10, Cherryville 1: Francisco Prado had four goals in an easy first-round N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A playoff win. Jason Coggins had two goals and two assists.
South Iredell upset previously unbeaten West Henderson in the N.C. 3A Western Regional championship game Tuesday to advance to Saturday’s state final. South Iredell (26-1) will face Asheboro (25-3) at noon at the Raleigh Convention Center. South Iredell, the only Observer-area team in the finals, is led by senior Julia Scoles, who has nearly 500 kills this season.
▪ Scoles, a UNC recruit, was named an Under Armour first team All-American Wednesday. Fort Mill’s Nation Ford (S.C). star Jessica Kemp made third team, and Fort Mill’s Payton Carter and Tessa Grubbs made honorable mention.
Scoles was the only North Carolina player to make first team.