The Weddington Witness

Filed under Analysis, Showcase

LEADERS OF THE VALLEY – Weddington Keeps The Streak With Gutsy Win Over Spartans

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Junior Ian Williams kicks the ball back to the Spartans after the Warriors make a touchdown.

Junior Ian Williams kicks the ball back to the Spartans after the Warriors make a touchdown.

Trevor Moore

Trevor Moore

Junior Ian Williams kicks the ball back to the Spartans after the Warriors make a touchdown.

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It takes guts to do what Weddington HS Football Coach Andy Capone did on Friday, especially when playing in front of a sell out crowd and battling against Sam Howell of Sun Valley – one of the best football players in the nation.

Let’s set the scene: less than 6 minutes remain in the game, it’s the fourth quarter and fourth down with 1 yard to go. The score is 28-21, the Warriors on top, and Weddington has the ball on their own 24 yard line. Most coaches, especially first year coaches like Capone, wouldn’t even consider going for it. But, with grit, persistence, and, above all, confidence in his team, the Warriors offense set up to go for the first down, and continue their trek down the field to create an even larger deficit between themselves and the Spartans.

“You have to go for it at that point,” said senior receiver Max Brimigion, whose clutch fourth quarter touchdown reception gave the Warriors their first lead of the game and eventually became the game winning touchdown. “We needed to keep the ball out of Sun Valley’s hands for as long as possible, and more than that, we needed to score again to make it a  two-possession game. Sometimes you have to risk it to get the biscuit.”

Risking it paid off, as the Warriors, who were spearheaded by sophomore running back Will Shipley (who ran for 146 yards on the night), were successful on their fourth down conversion attempt. Shipley’s nine-yard run gave the Warriors the first down they needed, and pushed their drive ahead to eventually allow Weddington’s kicker – junior Ian Williams – to seal the victory with seconds remaining after completing a 36 yard field goal attempt, making the final score 31-21.

This is the fourth year in a row that the Warriors have taken down the Spartans, leaving Sam Howell and his fellow seniors winless against Weddington during their high school football careers. This fourth year-in-a-row victory for WHS would not have been possible without several key components besides Will Shipley’s crucial run on fourth down.

First off, senior James Shipley had a somewhat unnoticed, yet extremely important shoestring tackle at the end of the second quarter that prevented the Spartans from going ahead by 14 points before the half. This moment in the game was coined not only a “game changing moment” by Union County Football, but also by Coach Capone, who commented that “James always steps up to the occasion, making those type of plays that might go unnoticed at the end of the game, but always have a major impact.”

Aside from [James] Shipley’s major tackle, two senior offensive spark plugs for the Warriors, running back Wayne Dixie and receiver Max Brimigion showed their experience and dominance, each accounting for a touchdown that proved to be vital in terms of the final score.  Dixie, who rushed for 73 yards on Friday commented on his ability to score and gain yards in crucial moments, saying, “I just keep running. I try not to turn the ball over, and I push hard to ensure that I am doing my part to make sure the team is successful.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Sun Valley Quarterback Sam Howell was difficult for WHS to maintain in the first half, as Howell threw for over 200 yards, rushed for over 100, and accounted for three touchdowns in just the first two quarters. However, after adjustments made by the Warriors defense at the half, linebacker Alec Mock and defensive end Trey Alsbrooks put the hammer on Howell, stalking his every move in the third and fourth quarters, and only allowing 48 yards total with no points scored by the Spartans in the second half.

With all of this in mind, it is clear to see the different aspects of the Warrior football team that made the game against Sun Valley a success. However, despite all of the incredible efforts by Weddington’s receivers, running backs, linemen, and defensive players, one truly rose to the occasion unlike anyone else. His name is Dante Casciola, and he is the sophomore Quarterback wins over the aggressive East Meck Eagles, the talented Crest Chargers, and now, the highly-touted Sun Valley Spartans. Casciola has been praised beyond measure by fellow players, media members, and coaches for his “calm, cool, and collected” style of play. In last Friday’s game, Casciola took very well to the hype and showed off his composure by not allowing himself to get too excited over the anticipation and expectations of the game. Casciola’s focus allowed him to not only throw for 118 yards, but also account for two touchdowns, and go 10-for-16 on the night. “I just did what I had to do.” Commented Casciola when asked about the game against the Spartans. “I am confident in this team. I think we have a lot to offer and I am extremely proud of that win – it was big for all of us.”

It is clear that Casciola has star power, and plenty of that will be needed in the Warriors next matchup, Charlotte Catholic, on Friday, September 28th at 7:30pm.

The Warriors will also return senior quarterback Whitner Litton in the Catholic game, who has not played the past three weeks. It is unclear at this point what the plan-of-attack is regarding the Warrior’s Quarterback for this upcoming game and for the remainder of the season. One thing that is for sure: the return of Litton is just another feather in the Warriors cap in terms of skill set and talent that will be on the field against the reigning NCHSAA 3A State Champs (Charlotte Catholic).

With all talk aside about the upcoming Charlotte Catholic game, the Warriors execution at Sun Valley will be one for the books. Despite all of the conversation heading into the matchup, the massive audience, and the intense pressure, Weddington remained composed and never failed to give it their all. They are a team that not only boasts talent, but quite a bit of heart – they are a true definition of what Warriors are. It will be exciting, to say the least, as to where they will go this season, and even though the future is unclear one thing is for certain: Weddington Football owns the Sun Valley Spartans. The Warriors are the true leaders of the Valley.

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