Vance High was fit enough to survive its miscues in the second round of the N.C. Class 4A football playoffs.
The Cougars turned the ball over four times, yet beat Jamestown Ragsdale 21-19 at home on Friday. Vance, which advances to the third round against Rocky River at home, was inconsistent, which concerned coach Aaron Brand.
“The story of this is survive and advance,” he said. “Nobody said this was going to be easy. I’m afraid at the beginning we thought it would be easy but at this point in the season everybody’s gunning for you.”
Ragsdale didn’t fold after falling behind 21-6 on Omar Baker’s 31-yard pass to Myles Dorn in the third quarter. The Tigers responded with a 34-yard scoring strike from Alec Cobb to Tevin Quick and Brandon Harris’ 2-yard plunge with 5:19 left, but Vance chewed up most of the clock with Donnavan Spencer’s running and a 24-yard pass from Baker to Dorn. Although the drive stalled when Vance fumbled at the Tigers’ 17 with 52 seconds left, the Cougars held on fourth down at their 35 to seal the win.
“I’m glad this team could handle the adversity at the end,” Brand said. “Three fumbles from Spencer – he hadn’t fumbled the ball all year before tonight. You can’t win like that, especially in the red zone.”
Vance’s offensive strategy was simple: Establish the run with Spencer, who piled up 164 yards on 25 carries. Costly mistakes – notably a trio of fumbles and an interception – provided Ragsdale with an opportunity to remain in contention.
“I was real proud of our kids,” Ragsdale coach Tommy Norwood said. “We came in here 7-5 and we’ve been kind of a roller-coaster football team most of the year – good one week, bad one week.
“I can’t be any prouder of how hard they played today. We had a chance at the end, but it was a hard chance.”
Vance outgained Ragsdale 232 yards to 208 in the first half, with the Cougars running for 124 yards. Spencer ran for 81 yards on 10 carries for Vance. The Tigers found success passing, with Cobb hitting 14-of-25 tries for 151 yards and a score.
“I thought we could bounce back from the high of beating Mooresville (in the first round) and it just didn’t feel right,” Brand said. “Once (Ragsdale) held the ball a lot in the first quarter we just couldn’t get in a rhythm and they had a great game plan.”
Vance jumped in front on Bruce Knox’s 2-yard plunge in the second quarter, but Ragsdale pulled to within 7-6 on a 14-yard pass from Cobb to T.J. Parker.
Ragsdale stopped the Cougars on fourth-and-1 at the Tigers’ 3 to kill a second-quarter drive, but Elijah Westbrook flipped possession two plays later with a one-handed interception that resulted in a 5-yard scoring toss from Baker to Dorn.