Charlotte Catholic tops Vance 35-34 in thrilling finish

Charlotte Catholic tops Vance 35-34 in thrilling finish

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Charlotte Catholic tops Vance 35-34 in thrilling finish

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On a chilly night, Charlotte Catholic and Vance put on a red-hot regional final for all the fans in attendance at Keffer Stadium Friday, as the home-standing Catholic Cougars won 35-34.

Vance came out of the gates strong, making the most of the game’s opening possession, racing down the field for a quick 7-0 lead on an Omar Baker pass down the right sideline. When Charlotte Catholic took possession of the ball, the Cougars were able to efficiently move the ball down the field against the Vance defense. Running back Jaret Anderson carried up the middle for what was going to be a first down, but fumbled the ball and Vance recovered inside their own 10 yard line.

Catholic’s defense forced a quick Vance punt, but the Cougars’ offense was unable to make anything of it, turning the ball back over to Vance on another fumble near midfield. This time, Aaron Brand’s team made Catholic pay for the miscue, as Omar Baker finished off an excellent drive for the Vance offense with a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown, giving Vance a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

On the next Charlotte Catholic drive, the Cougars got things rolling offensively when Jaret Anderson found the endzone on a 3-yard, drawing Catholic within 14-7 in the second. When Vance took over, the Cougars did what they do best, when Omar Baker found Myles Dorn on a 67-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline. After a blocked extra point, the score was 20-7 in favor of the visitors from Northeast Charlotte.

Perhaps fearing the return abilities of Jaret Anderson, Vance chose to kick the ball short, giving Catholic an opportunity to get back into the game before halftime. A pass interference penalty on Vance gave Charlotte Catholic an opportunity to make it a close game before the half, and the home team took advantage. John Walton found Jon Newman with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first half, drawing within six points going into the locker.

Charlotte Catholic’s rushing attack wore down the Vance defensive front with a grueling, seven-minute touchdown drive to open the second half. The Cougars finished it off when John Walton found Ryan Miller on a five-yard touchdown pass with just under 5 minutes left in the third quarter, 21-20. Vance’s offense had no trouble answering, as Baker found Dorn again on an 11-yard touchdown pass late in the third. A two-point conversion gave Baker and company a 28-21 lead.

When they got the ball back, Charlotte Catholic kept passing the ball against the Vance defense, this time Walton connected with Jaret Anderson on a 50-yard screen pass for a touchdown, tying the game at 28-apiece. After forcing a Vance punt, Catholic took over with a little over nine minutes remaining. Another extensive scoring drive led to a 2-yard Jaret Anderson touchdown, giving Catholic a 35-28 edge with a little over three minutes remaining in regulation.

Vance was able to answer again, scoring with just over 13 seconds remaining in regulation. Aaron Brand and his staff made the decision to go for two and the win, but Omar Baker’s pass was intercepted by Matt White, preserving the victory for Charlotte Catholic.

The Cougars will face New Bern in the 4A state championship game next Friday at BB&T Field on the campus of Wake Forest University.

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