MONROE – Two high scoring offenses will face two stingy defenses when Weddington travels to Sun Valley on Sept. 21 for the Southern Carolina Conference opener for both teams. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
With Florida State commit Sam Howell under center for Sun Valley, the Spartans are averaging 40.5 points a game while rolling to a 4-0 record. Weddington is also 4-0 after averaging 37.5 points an outing as the Warriors are solid at the skill positions.
Both defenses are equally as good. Sun Valley has yielded just 54 points in four games while Weddington has given up just 56 points in four outings, including 21 last week in an impressive 31-21 win over Class 3A powerhouse Crest.
Howell is having another outstanding season as the senior is 52-of-95 passing for 1,092 yards and 19 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Howell has also rushed for 446 yards, scored five touchdowns on the ground and is averaging 9.5 yards a carry.
Gavin Blackwell is Howell’s top target as the sophomore speedster has 16 catches for 457 yards and is tied for the county lead with nine touchdown receptions. Christian McIntosh has 11 catches for 172 yards while Isiah Hall has 11 catches for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
“Sun Valley is a good football team and they are coached very well,” said Weddington coach Andy Capone. “We just need to continue to do what we do. We will have another short week of practice, but I think our kids will come ready to play. I expect a good football game.”
For the third straight week, Weddington sophomore Dante Casciola will line up at quarterback for the Warriors in place of senior Whitner Litton. Casciola is 22-of-35 passing for 341 yards and five touchdowns in his first two starts.
In last week’s win against Crest, Casciola was 12-of-21 passing for 173 yards and Capone said the victory was a confidence booster for his quarterback and team. Crest had won the previous two meetings between the two schools.
“Our plan is to have Dante there,” Capone said. “Dante has stepped in and done a great job. The team has rallied behind him. Dante is a tough kid. It has been fun to watch him succeed.”
Casciola has a stable full of receivers to throw to as 12 different Weddington players have at least one reception this season. Senior James Shipley leads the way with 18 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns while Will Shipley has 12 catches for 168 yards and one score. Max Brimigion has 10 catches for 190 yards and one touchdown.
Will Shipley has rushed for 262 yards and is averaging 6.4 yards a carry.
“It looks like that Weddington hasn’t missed a beat from last year,” said Sun Valley coach Tad Baucom. “Weddington is very disciplined and they are very good at the things they do. Their motor runs the whole game. The Shipley boys are extremely dangerous. The quarterback has stepped in and done a good job. It should be a great atmosphere.”
The kicking game has also been a bright spot for the Warriors. Ian Williams has made all 18 PAT kicks and the junior is 3-5 on field goals with a long of 52 yards. Williams is averaging 42.5 yards a punt.
Sun Valley has a dual kicking threat in Nick Bartolomeo and Jacob Bowman. Bartolomeo has made all 19 PAT kicks while Bowman is having a solid year punting the football.
The Weddington linebacking trio of Alec Mock, Trey Alsbrooks and Eamon Murphy key the Warriors defense. Murphy leads the way with 43 tackles while Mock, who plays middle linebacker and calls the plays, has 39 tackles. Alsbrooks, who also lines up on the defensive front, has 29 tackles, including five for losses, and two sacks.
“Alec is having a great year and having Murphy next to him, obviously, helps,” Capone said. “Trey has a high motor and he is very quick.”
Warriors defensive lineman Joseph Zovistoski has 20 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Warriors while Jake Wallace is also playing well in the defensive trenches. Weddington has forced six turnovers in four games — four fumbles and two interceptions.
“The defense has been playing really well,” Capone said. “They are a tough group. They fly after the ball and they get after. We have forced turnovers and given our offense a short field and good field position.”
Sun Valley has six players with 20 or more tackles. Senior linebacker Jack Wilton leads the way with 54, including 35 solo stops, and Preston Doody is next with 34 tackles for the Spartans. Jameson Conley has added 22 tackles, Cameron Maddox has 21 stops while Christian Joe and Jacob Moore have 20 tackles each.
“Our defense has been a bright spot this year,” Baucom said. “We are playing really good assignment football. They are getting turnovers and we are taking turns stepping up and making really big plays. They are starting to play together and we are really excited about the defense.”