Weddington’s run to last season’s state championship was nearly the perfect storm.
The Warriors won two more games (they finished 15-1) than they’d ever won in school history.
Their 6-1 conference mark was the best in school history, and the high-powered offense averaged just a smidge under 38 points per game, which is the school’s best.
But what may not come to mind right away is how smothering the Weddington defense was. They allowed just 12.44 points per game. It wasn’t the best in school history – the 2013 team finished at under 10 points per game – but that was a stout defense nonetheless.
Leading tackler Eamon Murphy is one of four of the top nine tacklers who graduated, but there is a lot to love about this year’s defense, starting with Alec Mock (150 tackles, 15 quarterback hurries, 14 tackles for a loss, seven passes defended, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles).
The 6-3, 230-pound Mock is raking in offers from the likes of the Ivy League schools, Richmond, Eastern Michigan and others.
He’s joined by his longtime defensive mate Trey Alsbrooks, who had a similar statistical gem of a season as Mock’s with 94 tackles, 30 quarterback hurries, 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, a pair of blocked kicks, two forced fumbles and an interception.
Alsbrooks is also heavily recruited, with many programs waiting to see how he transitions from his defensive end position to linebacker alongside Mock.
“It’s going really well between us, and it isn’t a big deal at all. We’ve played together since the third grade, so it’s going well out there,” Mock said. “We’ve looked good. We’re playing as a team, everyone is picking up everything, all of the new guys are doing well and Malik (Mustapha) came in and has done a good job. We’re able to plug him right in, so it’s going really well. There are no issues, really.”
One potential issue is the switch Alsbrooks is making, but he said the kinks are already getting worked out.
“I’ve had little growing pains here and there, but Alec has helped me out with everything,” Alsbrooks said. “The biggest challenges for me is just tackling, really. You have to know where you are on the field and you can’t just bulldoze past everybody. You’ve also got a lot more responsibility with your gaps. I just have to improve my vision and see where to go, but it’s coming along. I’ve gotten better every day, but a lot of guys have stepped up. Everyone is in a bigger role, but we have guys stepping up everywhere to help fill in the voids.”
The Warriors will also feature major contributors, such as Joe Zovistoski (73 tackles and a team-high eight sacks), Will Shipley, Noah Niemeyer, Bryson Parker, Colby Barsz and Mustapha, the Ardrey Kell transfer who already holds at least eight offers as a defensive back.
While the offense will sizzle with Shipley and his running mates, the defense will ultimately determine the Warriors’ fate. It’s a challenge Mock and Alsbrooks are looking forward to.
“The key is everyone being on the same page,” Mock said. “We run a complicated defense and we’re switching around a lot, but if everyone is on the same page and if everyone is doing their job, then everything will be just fine.”
If that’s the case, Alsbrooks thinks this team could have another storybook ending.
“We’re coming together and getting better every day,” he said. “We have to be a team, be focused and all come together on that one goal. If we can do that, I think we have the team to do it again.”