By Cliff Mehrtens

CHARLOTTE – North Mecklenburg High’s football team is a banged-up bunch.

The shorthanded Vikings had several starters in street clothes Friday night, but gamely battled until the end of a 28-6 loss at Vance in a MECKA 4A conference game.

The Vikings’ showed plenty of grit, although it couldn’t overcome costly mistakes. The loss dropped North Mecklenburg to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in conference.

Vance intercepted four North Mecklenburg passes, and returned two for touchdowns. The Vikings also had a punt blocked, missed a field goal and an extra-point kick.

“We fought like crazy,” North Meck coach Brad Baker said. “But at the end of the day, we made too many mistakes to win. We’re not going to make excuses (about injuries). We’re still practicing to execute, and we didn’t execute well enough tonight.

After a scoreless first quarter, Vance (6-3, 3-2) scored on an 80-yard drive for a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Less than a minute later, Vance cornerback Oquan Bratton intercepted a pass and returned it 46 yards for a 14-0 lead.

North Meck kept it close by shutting down a Vance fourth-down run seconds before halftime. Linebacker Trevor Lowery made the tackle to stop the drive.

“Our guys are never going to quit,” Baker said. “Adversity is part of football and part of life. You’ve just got to suck it up and deal with it.”

North Mecklenburg’s players did exactly that. A couple of Vikings were limping at game’s end. Another held his painful shoulder several times coming off the field.”

Vance defensive lineman Christopher Brown jumped to intercept a screen pass early in the third quarter and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cougars a 28-0 lead.

But North Mecklenburg battled back, and recovered two Vance fumbles in the third quarter. Their lone score came on quarterback Polo Dargins’ 21-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.