Soldiers on the left, troops on the right, fighters in the center, warriors hidden from view.
Weddington excelled on the grandest stage in the state, defeating Hoggard 56-21 to claim the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A football championship on Saturday. By the third quarter, with 2 minutes and 23 seconds remaining at Carter-Finley Stadium, Weddington had already established a 42-point lead, resulting in a running clock.
Weddington has now won their fourth championship after previously winning three 3AA titles in 2016, 2018, and 2019. This latest victory not only occurred at the 4A level, but it also had the largest point difference out of all four championships.
Coach Andy Capone expressed that although they experienced some defeats, the team continued to push through and show determination. He also mentioned that this particular group will hold a special place in his heart.
The Warriors (14-2) concluded their season with 12 consecutive victories, halting a Hoggard (14-2) team’s 14-game winning streak. The outcome was not surprising as Weddington had maintained a higher rank throughout the year, but their effortless performance was impressive.
Weddington dominated with a score of 28-7 in the first half and then continued their strong performance in the third quarter, scoring an additional 28 points. This contributed to a total of 42 unanswered points. Weddington’s final score of 56 is the highest in the top division since Mallard Creek’s 59 points in the 2013 4AA championship.
“Wow, they really delivered an impressive performance tonight,” remarked Capone.
Weddington’s quarterback, Tyler Budge, scored a rushing touchdown from one yard out. Running backs Nick Diamond and Brady Ritter also contributed to the team’s success, with Diamond scoring two touchdowns from 47 and 12 yards away, and Ritter scoring one from 11 yards out. Diamond’s impressive performance included nine carries for a total of 105 yards.
Budge completed 17 out of 24 passes, with one interception and a total of 243 yards. He also scored two touchdowns.
UNC recruit Keenan Jackson scored two receiving touchdowns and a touchdown run where he picked up a Budge fumble and ran five yards into the end zone. Jackson also had 10 receptions for 136 yards.
He easily earned the game’s MVP title with his three touchdowns.
“Budge’s passes were right on target and I was able to execute my skills,” stated Jackson.
The Warriors were able to score in every aspect of the game, thanks to T.J. Davis (son of Thomas Davis) who ran back a blocked punt by Aiden Harris.
Harris received the Defensive MOP award for Weddington, while Budge was awarded Offensive MOP.
Harris explained, “As I stood up, I raised my hand and did a flip. However, upon landing, I experienced pain in my back.” This incident occurred when Harris attempted to jump over the Hoggard wall and ended up flipping over it, landing on his back.
Hoggard’s only points were earned through a 65-yard touchdown run by quarterback Hudson Wilharm in the third quarter, a 20-yard pass from Wilharm to Ryan McAllister in the fourth (which halted the continuously running clock), and the first score of the game, a 4-yard pass from Wilharm to Charlie Kilbourne, following a Trey Nixon interception.
Wilharm completed 17 out of 31 passes for a total of 195 yards and threw one interception, which was caught by Harris. He was responsible for all three touchdowns scored by Hoggard and was awarded the title of offensive Most Outstanding Player (MOP) for his team. Kamar Fulton, who made the most tackles in the game with 13, was named the defensive MOP.
“It was a challenging evening for us. It did not go as planned, but as I just mentioned to the team, let’s not allow this to diminish their accomplishments this year and the contributions of our upperclassmen over the past three to four years,” stated coach Craig Underwood. “Weddington made impressive plays, while we made some errors. In a state championship, it is crucial to play mistake-free football. We were aware of this going into the game, but unfortunately, we were unable to execute it tonight.”