CHAPEL HILL, NC – The Vance Cougars relied on their stifling defense to thwart Leesville Road in the 4AA Championship game 24-3, earning the program’s first State Championship.
The Cougars dominated the line of scrimmage, holding the Pride to just 80 yards of total offense in the game. Power Echols was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, leading the Cougars in tackles with 6.5 for the day, including 1.5 tackles for loss. He also rushed twice for 16 yards and a touchdown.
Vance opened the scoring with an 84-yard explosion for touchdown when Austin Grier found Jordan Payne for a score, capping off a drive that started at the Cougar four-yard line. Leesville responded early in the second quarter with their only points of the game as Noah Burnette split the uprights for a 34-yard field goal to trim the lead to 7-3. Melvin Benitez answered for the Cougars with an 18-yard field goal of his own with just five seconds to go in the half, putting Vance up 10-3.
The Cougars closed out the game with a pair of touchdown runs in the fourth quarter. Daylan Smothers increased the lead with a six-yard scoring run with 9:58 to go that gave Vance a 17-3 lead. Then with 8:55 to play, Echols cashed in a 14-yard run just one play after a Leesville turnover, to ice the game 24-3.
Leesville Road reached the State Championship game for the first time in program history. The Pride finished the season 13-1, 6-0 in the Cap 7 4A Conference where they were the champions.
Vance wrapped up their year 13-2. The Cougars were 5-2 in the I-Meck 4A conference. Vance reached the state championship game for the second time in program history and the second year in a row, earning the school’s first football state championship.