WEDDINGTON – Weddington has faced a number of quality quarterbacks this season and that won’t change when the Warriors take on Mount Tabor in the semifinals of the Class 3-AA playoffs on Dec. 7 in Winston-Salem.
The winner will advance to the Class 3-AA championship on Dec. 15 at North Carolina’s Keenan Stadium.
After taking over at quarterback early in the season, Mount Tabor senior JaQuan Albright has helped lead the Spartans to nine straight wins. Albright (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) has rushed for more than 200 yards in several games this season, including for 225 yards against Parkland in a win that gave the Spartans a share of the conference championship at the time. Albright also starts at defensive back for Mount Tabor (10-4) where he boasts several interceptions, including one for 105 yards and a touchdown.
“The Albright kid is a special player,” said Weddington coach Andy Capone. “Albright is dynamic and if you give him a little seam, he is going to take it. He plays both ways so you know he is in good shape. When they put him back at quarterback, that flipped their season. Very, very dynamic and slippery and we haven’t seen a quarterback this fast all year.”
Weddington is giving up just 12 points a game and the Warriors have forced 23 turnovers and come away with 13 interceptions and 10 fumbles. Weddington has given up just 20 points in three playoff wins against Central Cabarrus (48-0), South Iredell (33-6) and Watauga (42-14).
“Our defense is relentless to the football and they fly around,” Capone said. “We have played a lot of different offenses and the kids have responded to whatever is in front of them.”
Middle linebacker Alec Mock anchors the Weddington defense, and the junior has 135 tackles on the season. He has 12 tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks.
“Mock has been great and he has had a really good year,” Capone said. “He has come into his own and has become a leader that you expect out of a middle linebacker. We needed another voice out there and the kids respect him. I’m really happy where he is right now.”
Mock said he feels the Warrior defense is up to the challenge of stopping Mount Tabor’s offense and especially Albright.
“I think we are a very adjustable defense,” he said. “If an offense comes out in something we haven’t seen, we can adjust to that. We have the athletes to do that. We just have to do what we do every week, play disciplined and play hard to the end. I think we will be able to stop them.”
Four-year starter Eamon Murphy leads the team in tackles with 142, including 12 for losses. Murphy has two interceptions and has blocked a punt and a kick this season. Murphy’s father, Brian, coached in the NFL, including stints at Minnesota and Carolina.
“Murph is a special player and you could tell that when he walked in the door as a freshman,” Capone said. “He is like another coach out there for us and he is so much more athletic this year. Murphy and Mock really get our defense going and you see those two guys all over the field.”
Weddington, which is 5-1 on the road this season, has reeled off eight straight victories since losing to Charlotte Catholic 20-0
In seven of those eight wins, the Warriors have scored at least 42 points.
Weddington has a dual threat in the backfield with running backs Will Shipley and Wayne Dixie. Shipley has rushed 176 times for 1,286 yards and 17 touchdowns while Dixie has added 628 yards and seven touchdowns on 134 carries. Shipley also has 28 catches for 323 yards and four scores.
Senior quarterback Whitner Litton has completed 116-of-198 passes for 1,739 yards and 22 touchdowns to balance out the attack. Max Brimigion, who recently received a Division I offer from Dayton, has 45 catches for 880 yards and 12 touchdowns while James Shipley has 46 receptions for 583 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Last week, we ran it 47 times and we passed it twice,” Capone said. “As a play caller, I would have never thought I would call that, but credit them because they continue to get after it. We have two really good backs in Will and Wayne and then you have to look outside and see who we have at receiver. We have a lot of weapons.
“Obviously, we are going to have to be balanced against Mount Tabor. It’s a tough place to play. But I think our kids are excited about the challenge.”
Capone said the Warriors must score points when they reach the red zone.
“They are big up front,” Capone said. “The DBs are good. But what is really impressive is that when someone gets into the red zone, they really lock down and they are going to go get it. They have a lot of interceptions and a lot of turnovers in the red zone. They do a great job of forcing turnovers. We have to take care of the football. We have to be a little more balanced and we have to put pressure on them.”