It might be hard for most teams that have won two state championships in a row — and returned 14 starters to chase a third — to feel a little disrespected.
But that’s exactly how Weddington coach Andy Capone describes his Warriors, who beat three-time state champion Charlotte Catholic 7-3 Friday night on the road.
Weddington (2-0) is trying to win without All-American Will Shipley, who might have been a national player of the year candidate if he had not chosen to enroll at Clemson instead of playing his senior season, which was pushed from August to February due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And when Shipley left, taking 2,066 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns with him, a lot of people, to hear Capone tell it, began to feel like Weddington was get-able.
Only, if Friday night is any indication, it’s still going to be awfully tough to beat Weddington.
The Warriors stopped one of the best teams in North Carolina, regardless of class, and they did it on the road, and they didn’t allow Charlotte Catholic’s vaunted rushing attack a run of more than 10 yards.
Oh, and in two weeks, Weddington has allowed five points.
“I think our kids took it a little personally,” Capone said after the win, his team’s second straight against Catholic (1-1). “Will’s a heckuva player and we scored seven points, so people will say, ‘We can’t move it,’ but that’s a heckuva defense Catholic has. And to me, our seniors have done a great job stepping into fill the leadership void that Will left.”
More than 1,300 fans -- or 30 percent of capacity -- watched the game at Catholic’s stadium. They didn’t see much offense.
A year ago, Weddington beat Catholic 45-0 and ended a conference winning streak that was 66 games and 11 years long. Weddington went onto to win another state title, and Catholic bounced back to win a third straight N.C. 3A state title after losing to its Southern Carolinas conference rival (it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cougars did the same thing this spring).
This year, Charlotte Catholic (1-1) has four new starters on its offensive line and the Cougars couldn’t open holes to run through.
Catholic got one good drive in the first half and arrived at the Weddington 1 in the second quarter. But a penalty pushed the Cougars back five yards and Weddington’s defense then forced a field goal. Will Detter hit from 23 yards.
Later in the half, Weddington got a big pass from QB Dante Casciola to Gage Hudson. Hudson ran inside the Cougars’ 20 where he was hit and fumbled. Teammate Kait Moosbrugger picked up the ball and was tackled at the 8. That turned out to be the play of the game.
Later on the same drive, Casciola scrambled away from trouble and hit Brooks Johnson with a 9-yard touchdown pass with 10.8 seconds in the first half.
With the Warriors defense playing so well, that was all Weddington needed.
“We had a great game plan, really we had one the last two years,” Capone said. Defensive coordinator “John Hall and his staff do a great job and, I guess, the good thing about playing Catholic is our kids see them for four years. And the bad thing about Catholic is we’ve got to play them for four years, too. Our kids just have an understanding with what they do offensively (in a Wing-T offense) and we told them all week it was going to be battle.”
Capone praised linebackers Evan Schwartz and Trace McCament, who are replacing Alec Mock (Air Force) and Trey Alsbrooks (Elon), the guys who anchored a defense that allowed less than 10 points per game last season.
“And Joe Zovistoski played 90 percent of the snaps (Friday),” Capone said. “He doesn’t get tired and he’s a heckuva player. I thought our (defensive backs played great). Makiya Evans got a big interception at the end and he’s a kid who transferred in and bought into what we do and learned our system. He spent some extra time in film this week and he had a chance to make a big play and he made it.”
So the names might not be as familiar this season, and Shipley is gone, but Capone likes his team’s chances to three-peat -- and he likes his teams’ edge.
“I think,” Capone said “they just let people know that we’re going to continue to play the right way and see how it ends up.”
Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers
Blane Fulbright, East Burke: 24 carries for 240 yards and two touchdowns in a 43-6 win over West Iredell. Logan Johnson had seven tackles and three passes defended on defense.
Vic Garrido, Pine Lake Prep: completed 20-of-33 passes for a school-record 420 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in a 46-7 win over Cherryville. He also had three two-point conversions rushing and one two-point conversion passing. He hooked up with teammate Austin Shaw for five completions for 152 yards and three touchdowns. Shaw’s receiving yards and receiving touchdowns were also school records.
Nolan Hauser, Hough: kicker made three field goals (19-, 40- and 22-yards in a 37-6 win over Mooresville. He was 4-for-4 on extra points.
Kellan Hood, Richmond Senior: 17-of-29 passing for 227 yards and a touchdown in the Raiders’ 42-35 win over Pinecrest. Hood ran seven times for 31 yards. He found receiver Tremel Jones nine times for 140 yards and a touchdown.
Dalton MIller, Mount Pleasant: ran 23 times for 151 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-21 win over Jesse Carson.
Around the area
▪ Myers Park QB Lucas Lenhoff had three touchdowns in a 35-9 win over Rocky River. He now has seven touchdowns in two
weeks. Tailback Jacob Newman scored twice and has three touchdowns this season.
▪ Cuthbertson QB Evan Bernard was 26-of-36 for 249 yards and two scores, earning a 98.0 QB rating in a 31-10 win over Piedmont.
▪ Providence’s defense held Berry to minus 16 yards on 21 carries. Berry averaged 1.8 yards per play in Providence’s 27-7 win. Providence QB Holland Stalling was 18-of-25 for 167 yards and tailback Jamar Price ran 22 times for 112 yards. In two games, the Panthers have allowed just one score.
▪ Hough beat Mooresville 37-6 and the Huskies allowed just 104 yards total offense. Hough QB Tad Hudson, who will be on the Observer’s Talking Preps streaming show Monday night, had two touchdown passes.
▪ Davion Nelson had four touchdowns for Butler in its 42-20 win over Porter Ridge. He has seven touchdowns in two weeks. Teammate Jake Snapp had two Friday.
▪ Watauga’s Isiah Shirley had nine tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks in Friday’s 21-7 win over Alexander Central.
▪ Bunker Hiill’s Jay Abrams had two interceptions in a 32-7 win over Fred T. foard.
Hough 37, Mooresville 6. ... Freshman Nolan Hauser kicked three field goals, and sophomore quarterback Tad Hudson threw a pair of first-half touchdown passes. The Huskies improved to 2-0 overall and 2-0 in conference. It was Mooresville’s season-opener.
SO MECK 7 4A
Olympic 28, South Mecklenburg 3 ... Sean Bowles ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more, leading the Trojans (2-0, 2-0 SoMeck 7 4A). South Mecklenburg fell to 0-2, 0-2.
Independence 15, East Mecklenburg 9 ... Amari Hakeem ran 1 yard for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:48 left to play, leading the Patriots (1-1, 1-1 Southwestern 4A). East Mecklenburg (0-2, 0-2) mounted a last drive, but the Patriots Jeremy Phillops ended it with an interception.
Richmond Senior 42, Pinecrest 35 (OT) ... The visiting Raiders stopped the Patriots four times from inside the 5 in overtime for the victory.
BIG SOUTH 3A
Crest 55, Stuart Cramer 24 ... The Chargers (2-0, 2-0) gave coach Nick Eddins the 100th victory of his career. Eddins coached at West Montgomery before moving to Crest for the 2017 season.
SOUTH PIEDMONT 3A
West Cabarrus 16, Cox Mill 0 ... West Cabarrus won its first-ever varsity home game, as Ross Wazquez ran for a touchdown and defensive end Julian Gwynn returned a fumble 25 yards for another score.
SOUTHERN CAROLINA 3A
Monroe 33, Marvin Ridge 17 ... The Redhawks won with a pair of fourth-quarter defensive scores. Ricardo Brown blocked a punt and returned it for a score with 9:40 remaining, and Jack Crump returned an interception 47 yards for a score.
CENTRAL CAROLINA 2A
Oak Grove 20, Salisbury 13 ... The Hornets, 2AA state finalists in 2019, dropped their conference opener. Salisbury took a 13-12 lead with eight minutes remaining on Blaine Shellhorn’s 9-yard run, but Oak Grove scored the winning touchdown on a short run with three minutes left.
SOUTH FORK 2A
Maiden 21, West Lincoln 20 ... Ethan Rhodes tied the game for Maiden on a 3-yard run with 45 seconds left, and Carson Foard won it with a conversion kick.
Mount Pleasant 27, Jesse Carson 21 ... The visiting Tigers built a 27-7 halftime lead and hung on. Dalton Miller ran for three first-half Mount Pleasant touchdowns.