By Andrew Stark
WEDDINGTON – Although it’s taken a while longer than maybe others in the Southern Carolinas Conference to reach maximum strength, the Weddington football team is coming into its own.
Take the Warriors’ Oct. 19 game at Marvin Ridge as a prime example.
The Mavs came in hot, with a 6-2 record. They were averaging over 350 yards per offense, fresh off a 38-0 beatdown of Cuthbertson and with thoughts of duplicating last year’s 27-24 win over the Warriors.
But Weddington first-year coach Andy Capone said this week was treated no differently than any other as his players prepared to meet their rival in a crucial matchup for both teams.
“It was just another game to be honest,” he said. “We knew they were a really good team and we knew it was going to be a tough one, but we had a good week of practice, we prepared well and executed our game plan really, really well.”
The Warriors came out decently on offense and got on the board first with a short Will Shipley touchdown run.
From there, both defenses held through the first quarter before the flood gates opened in Weddington’s favor.
After playing to a 7-0 first quarter, Shipley would score again before quarterback Whitner Litton threw one of his two touchdown passes, the first to James Shipley. Defensive lineman/linebacker Trey Alsbrooks got in on the action with a special teams touchdown and 28-0 lead after extra points from kicker extraordinaire Ian Williams.
Marvin would score off a Litton interception, but then Wayne Dixie and later Max Brimigion off a Litton pass would add touchdown scores and Williams would provide a second quarter field goal.
The 31 second quarter points was the difference, and it involved all of the key Warrior standouts.
Will Shipley picked up his third 100-plus yard rushing game of the season and second in two weeks after he had 21 carries, 107 yards and two scores.
Dixie ran 12 times for 24 yards and scored and also caught two passes for 22 yards.
Brimigion, who is chasing the county career receiving record, caught six passes for 107 yards and a score after reeling in a then season-high 99 yards last week. James Shipley took a week off from returning kicks back for scores, but hauled in four catches for 63 yards and a score. Litton was 17-25 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Eamon Murphy, a defensive standout, caught two passes for 75 yards.
“It’s huge for us to have all of those guys playing so well,” Capone said. “We have a lot of weapons, but those guys are so unselfish and they’re happy for everyone if it helps us win games.”
Litton returned from team suspension for the Charlotte Catholic game a month ago, but was just 6-13 for 32 yards in the Warriors only loss.
Since, he’s 38-56 (68 percent) for 680 yards, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions.
“Getting Whitner back is huge,” Capone said. “He’s starting to get into form kind of later in the year, but he’s done a good job of coming back, and the kids have done a really good job of welcoming him in. We’re getting to where we need to be offensively.”
Defensively the Warriors, led by Alsbrooks, Alec Mock, Jared Papke, Ryan Goldstein, Murphy and Eli Pettaway, among others, smothered the high-flying Marvin Ridge offense to zero points.
The defense has allowed 21 total points over the past four weeks, and is playing well from top to bottom.
“It’s been big for us,” Capone said. “The offense is playing really well for us, and the defense has played really great all year. They fly to the ball, they’re physical, they’re smart kids and they do what we ask. We just want to keep playing well for as long we can for the playoffs.”
But, the 8-1 Warriors now get Monroe, a team that’s a very deceiving 5-4.
The Redhawks have close losses to Charlotte Catholic (21-14), Cuthbertson (16-15) and Sun Valley (25-20) in addition to already beating Marvin Ridge, who has now gone 3-3 over the past six games and close against Sun Valley this week and at Charlotte Catholic next week and a 6-5 record a real possibility.
Monroe quarterback Trey Shepherd has thrown for over 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns. Running back JahTwan Stafford averages over 100 rushing yards per game and has 10 touchdowns. Freshman receiver Shaleak Knotts has 36 catches for 569 yards and nine scores. The defense, led by Chris Colon, Elijah Bost and Javon Robinson, is big, physical and good.
So, Capone said his Warriors will be prepared Oct. 25, but aware of just how dangerous the Redhawks can be.
“I keep telling everyone there are no weeks off in this conference,” Capone said. “They are a fast team, they are physical up front and their quarterback, Trey, does a great job of throwing the football.
“Defensively, they fly to the football like we do and they’re physical at the point of attack. There are no weeks off, so we need another good week of practice, we need to put together a game plan and come out and execute it.”