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Championship coach leads Vance into playoffs
Wilkes lays foundation for Cougars postseason run
Published Thursday, November 1, 2012 10:57 am
by Herbert L. White


Vance High football coach Keith Wilkes has seen the Cougars grow quickly in nine months.

Vance High quarterback Jalen Latter (left) takes the Cougars into the first round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs Friday against Myers Park.

Wilkes, who has a pair of N.C. 3A championships on his resume from Winston-Salem Carver, took over a program with talent but little continuity. He provided the latter and Vance responded with a postseason berth. The Cougars (8-3, 5-2 I-Meck 4A) host Myers Park Friday.

“We’re definitely playoff ready,” Wilkes said after Vance trounced West Charlotte 48-0 in the season finale. “We’ve done all we can do now and really it’s up to them. I’ve won a couple of state championships and been to a lot of playoffs and I tell the kids ‘Now it’s on y’all where you’re going to go, how much focus you’re going to have.’ Everything has to go to another level to be a state champion.”

Vance has championship-caliber components, including linebacker-tailback Larenz Bryant, who is committed to South Carolina; and three-way threat Nolan Corpening, who has 942 yards and seven touchdowns on offense in addition to a pair of scores on kick returns.

Beyond Bryant and Corpening, the Cougars are playing their best ball at the right time, rolling into the postseason with four straight wins.
“Everybody’s got to be peaking and playing their A game and I’m sure all over the state, teams are going to be playing their A game,” Wilkes said. “That’s what you’re going to have to bring.”

The first step is against Myers Park, which went 6-5, 4-3 in the Southwestern 4A. Although Vance went 1-3 in midseason after opening 3-0, the Cougars have hit stride in time for the playoffs. Wilkes is excited about what they’ve done and can do in the tournament.

“You want to see your team come together and you want to see your team get better,” he said. “They got better as the season went on, probably not the record I wanted – I want to win them all. Having an 8-2, 8-3 record going into the playoffs, we’ll take it and see what we can do.”



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