Heritage coach Brad Bradley led his team to a state championship last December. By February, he was gearing up for a new challenge. Bradley booked North Carolina’s Vance High, the 2018 state runner-up in 4AA, the state’s highest classification, for the Pioneers’ first game of 2019.
A couple months later, E.C. Glass football coach Jeff Woody did something similar, scheduling a scrimmage against powerhouse Life Christian Academy, located outside Richmond.
Life Christian features eight highly touted college recruits. Vance has five athletes from the classes of 2020 and ’21 who are among the best North Carolina has to offer.
All those players, plus athletes from Heritage and E.C. Glass, will make appearances at Lynchburg’s City Stadium over the next two weeks.
The Hilltoppers and Life Christian meet in a scrimmage set for Friday at 7 p.m. Heritage hosts Vance in the August 30 season opener at 7 p.m.
“This is probably the most talented team I’ve lined up against,” Bradley said of Charlotte-based Vance. “We feel like it’s a great challenge for us. We feel like it’s a great opportunity for our kids.”
Vance features five players who have either received offers or verbally committed to Power 5 schools, including four-star recruit Power Echols, a junior rated the No. 7 inside linebacker in the U.S. by recruiting website 247Sports.
“He’s the fastest linebacker I’ve ever seen in my life,” Bradley said.
The Cougars, who lost to Wake Forest 9-7 in the 4AA North Carolina state championship last year, also boast Stephen Sings, a rising senior defensive end who chose Virginia Tech over Auburn. Sings checks in at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and is currently listed as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.
Among the Cougars’ other standouts are running back and outside linebacker Stephon Thompson, a 6-foot Syracuse commit; Marqui Lowery Jr., a corner who has given a verbal to Appalachian State; and linebacker Solomon Sutton, who holds offers from UNC, East Carolina and Coastal Carolina.
“Our kids get to measure themselves against some of the best kids in the country,” Bradley added, “but, at the same time, we’re not gonna shy away from them. We’re not gonna back down.”
Heritage will travel to Charlotte to play Vance in 2020. Bradley set up the two-year series with then-Vance coach Aaron Brand, a former quarterback who led Halifax County to a state title in 1991.
Vance’s new coach, Glenwood Ferebee, also has Virginia ties. He played quarterback at Virginia Beach’s Green Run High in the early ‘90s, moved on to Liberty University and later served as coach at Lakeland and Indian River High.
Heritage, which grabbed the Class 3 state title over Phoebus last December, returns several notables, including running back KJ Vaughan, fresh off a junior year in which he rushed for 1,555 yards, and all-state selections Krystian Rivera at defensive end and Kyron Thomas at defensive back.
Life Christian has seven players who have garnered Division I attention. Joseph Johnson, a 6-2 corner, is a Penn State commit and rated the 10th overall best corner in Virginia.
Michael James Jr., a 6-foot senior receiver, has committed to Liberty, while corner Antonio Webb Jr. has given a verbal to JMU.
The Eagles, who play in the Virginia Independent Schools Division III, also feature towering linemen, like 6-7, 380-pound tackle Treyvon Green, who holds offers from LU, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and William & Mary, and 6-5 Omega Williams, offered by Pittsburgh and Tennessee.
“They’ve got some great athletes,” Woody said. “They can catch it and they can run it. Hopefully, we can check them a little bit. We’ve got some great athletes, too, but we’ve got our hands full.”
Glass returns a host of players influential to last season’s run to the Region 4D championship game, including quarterback DreSean Kendrick, who rushed for 1,700 yards and threw for 1,000 more as a junior, and running back Ty Foster, who posted nearly 1,300 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns last year.
“It’s a scrimmage,” Woody noted, “but we still wanna defend our house.”
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.