WEDDINGTON – With a convincing 49-14 win over Watauga, the Weddington football team has capped off its season goal of returning to the state championship game after winning the 3-AA title last year.
The Warriors have put up remarkable numbers along the way, setting program records for points scored per game (44.7) and points allowed per game (6.0).
In the win over Watauga, quarterback Dante Casciola shined as he completed 10-of-13 passes for 187 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
Alec Mock, Kambridge Tuttle, Colby Barsz and Landyn Backey all caught touchdowns. Junior star Will Shipley did his thing, running 14 times for 171 yards and two scores, including his nightly 80-something yard run, this time scoring from 83 yards out. Shipley, who is now the single-season Union County touchdown record holder, also led the team with three catches and 66 yards receiving.
As for the defense, Mock recorded a team-high 10 tackles while Trey Alsbrooks and Malik Mustapha added eight tackles each in the win over Watauga. Mustapha also added an interception in the game.
Under second-year coach Andy Capone, the Warriors have gone 30-1 and dominated in all aspects of the game this season.
In the championship, which is being played at 7 p.m. on Dec. 14 at Raleigh’s Carter-Finley Stadium, the Warriors will bring their perfect 15-0 mark up against Lee County, who also has a 15-0 record. Here is a deep dive into the matchup.
Weddington’s Capone has put up a 30-1 record in his two seasons with the Warriors. Lee County is led by Steve Burdeau, who nearly matches Capone’s shiny record. Burdeau coached one game with Richmond in 2015 and is in his second season at Lee County. His overall coaching record is 27-1, but Capone has the title and has been on the big stage before.
By The Numbers
Weddington averaged 44.7 points while the Yellow Jackets come in scoring 42.6 points per game. Weddington has the edge on defense, too, allowing 6.0 points per game to Lee County’s 11.5.
Lee County’s Colin Johnson has put together a very nice season for the Yellow Jackets. He’s a bit small (6-0, 165 pounds), but he has a big arm. This season, Johnson has thrown for 2,267 yards, 29 touchdowns to just two interceptions while completing 66% of his passes.
Casciola has thrown more interceptions (9) and has completed just under 60% of his passes, but he’s thrown for 1,556 yards and 26 touchdowns to eight different receivers. Dustin Mercer offers a change of pace and more of a running threat. Mercer is 10-of-11 passing for 317 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also averaging over seven yards per rush and has three scores on 22 carries.
When the game is decided, Grady Brosterhous has done a nice job (20-of-37, 305 yards, three touchdowns to four interceptions) for the Warriors as well.
Advantage: Lee County
Lee County leans on AJ Boulware, a senior with a few offers including from Coastal Carolina. Boulware has 245 carries for 2,124 yards (8.7 yards per carry) and 31 touchdowns. Larry Baldwin (596 rush yards and 10 touchdowns), Johnson (441 rush yards, five TDs) and Marcus Gray (320 yards, two TDs) get in on the action, too.
Weddington is led by Shipley (162 carries, 1,810 yards and 27 TDs) and his 11.2 yards per carry. Kyle Parsons (48 carries, 492 yards and six TDs) and Trey Gordon (78 carries, 424 yards and five TDs) will be in the mix, too. However, when you have the N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year on your team, you ride him in big games.
Lee County is led by sophomore Tyriq McKendall (58 catches, 708 yards and six TDs), but North Carolina cornerback commit Jayden Chalmers (23 catches, 445 yards and nine TDs) and Tim Lett (21 catches, 203 yards and four TDs) will be in the mix, too.
Weddington spreads the wealth as far as pass distribution as seven guys have 200 or more receiving yards. Shipley (33 receptions, 575 yards and nine TDs) and Mercer (35 catches, 517 yards and eight TDs) are the leaders, but the Yellow Jackets won’t be able to gameplan for just one player.
Lee County boasts Appalachian State commit DeAndre Dingle-Prince and North Carolina commit Desmond Evans (a 5-star defensive end who is ranked the 29th overall prospect in the country in the Class of 2020 by 247Sports.com) who have 23 sacks between them. They are total game disruptors and will make an impact in this one.
Weddington’s Ronnie Watterson and Noah Neidmeyer have been standouts on the Warriors’ defensive line, while the offensive side of the line has been a more than adequate job blocking for the run game.
Advantage: Lee County
Lee County’s Dingle-Prince and Evans are big-time stars, but linebackers Derran McCoy, Delmaz Jenkins and Baldwin have made a big impact. Jackson Lamb and Chalmers lead the team with four interceptions each while Jordan Batts, Sincere Goldstrom and McKendall are good coverage men.
Weddington has been led all season by Air Force commit Mock, Alsbrooks and Mustapha and this unit has allowed less than a touchdown per game. Lee County may change that, but in the end, the Warriors’ defense should stand strong.
Lee County’s Trey Underwood isn’t automatic on his kickoffs but has fared well in the kicking game. He’s made 65-of-74 PATs and has connected on all 11 of his field-goal attempts, although 41 yards out is his longest. He’s also averaging just 31 yards per punt.
Weddington boasts newly minted N.C. State commit Ian Williams. Williams is almost a shoo-in for knocking each kickoff into the end zone as he’s put 97 of 106 kicks out of play. He’s been a little inaccurate on his field goals (6-of-14), but he’s shown better accuracy (84-of-87 PATs) and a bigger leg (39.2 yards per punt).
Lee County has won at least 11 games for each of the past four seasons, but the school’s greatest triumph before this season was reaching the regional finals in 2005, when they got hammered 56-0 to JH Rose. Teams have certainly won titles in their first trip, but it’s harder to do.
This is the Warriors’ fourth state title appearance. They lost in the title game in 2014 but claimed championships in 2016 and 2018. In addition, of the contributing players, only Mustapha, an Ardrey Kell transfer, is new. Nearly everyone on the roster was in Chapel Hill last season when the Warriors beat Southeast Guilford 27-14, so they know what to expect on the bus ride up and with the intensified media coverage. They have a feel for what it’s like going to be like on the big stage.