Preview for 4A: Important Figures and Topics to Watch in the Eastern & Western Regional Finals.

Preview for 4A: Important Figures and Topics to Watch in the Eastern & Western Regional Finals.

Out of the four teams left in the 2023 N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state playoffs, none have a perfect record. Last year at this time, two teams were undefeated.

The 4A category has seen the fewest predictable outcomes compared to other groups. Independence, the top seed in the 4A West, is the only remaining high seed in the entire state. The 4A East is the sole region in North Carolina without one of its top two seeds in the final.

Which teams will be competing in the 4A state championship: Independence vs. Hoggard, Weddington vs. Cardinal Gibbons, Independence vs. Cardinal Gibbons, or Weddington vs. Hoggard?

This is a helpful reference for the plot developments and important figures to remember for the Eastern and Western finals.

The East Final for 4A: (5) Cardinal Gibbons will play against (3) Hoggard.

Two years prior, Cardinal Gibbons emerged victorious in the 4A state championship match. Currently, the Crusaders have the opportunity to reclaim the title with a victory in Wilmington.

Despite facing challenges, the Cardinal Gibbons team has persevered to reach this point.

The Crusaders suffered a loss to Florida Cardinal Gibbons and were defeated by Rolesville in non-conference play early in the season. In the middle of the season, senior Mercer quarterback commit Whit Newbauer sustained a hand injury and was unable to play. As a replacement, sophomore Gannon Jones, who is physically small, was given the opportunity to lead the team. To everyone’s surprise, Jones has excelled as a starting quarterback. He has completed 132 of his 185 passes (71.4%) for 2,193 yards, 29 touchdowns, and three interceptions. He is skilled at improvising and has also rushed for 337 yards and two touchdowns on 54 attempts.

The Crusaders’ defense is anchored by sophomore Braylon Peebles, who has recorded 139 tackles in 13 games. Despite facing challenging opponents, the Cardinal Gibbons defense has remained strong. This was evident in their recent game against Rolesville, where they only allowed 21 points despite the opposing team gaining significant yardage. The Crusaders’ secondary, including players Nolan Wirick and Chip Coleman, made crucial pass breakups on key downs to stop the Rams’ offense.

Hoggard has a unique past. In 2007, the Vikings had an unbeaten season and claimed the 4A state title. The current 2023 group is the strongest team Hoggard has had since that memorable 2007 season.

The Vikings are a typical team, with a strong presence on both the offensive and defensive lines and skilled players in the perimeter positions. Their quarterback, Hudson Wilharm, stands at 6 feet 5 inches, which is ideal for most coaches. Junior athlete Nas Session, standing at 6 feet, has caught the eye of college recruiters with his impressive performance as a receiver this season.

Hoggard High School’s offensive line includes several talented players who have caught the attention of Division I schools. One of these players is senior Jason Smith, who has received numerous offers from FCS schools. Additionally, junior Michael Gibbs has already received offers from FBS schools. On the defensive line, Malakahi West is known for his exceptional pass-rushing skills and was selected as an All-State player by HSOT. He has also committed to playing for Elon.

Hoggard is known for having the strongest defense in the 4A division. They have achieved four shutouts so far this season and have been particularly successful at stopping the run, with an average of only 3.2 yards per carry allowed. The team’s linebackers, headed by senior Reagan Printy (averaging 12.3 tackles per game) and junior Rylan Edwards (averaging 9.9 tackles per game), have been outstanding this season.

Cardinal Gibbons Hoggard

12 wins and 2 losses in total, with 5 wins and 0 losses in conference matches.

Thirteen wins and one loss in total, with a perfect record of seven wins and no losses in conference play.

Common Opp. 1-0 1-0
MaxPreps Rating 39.8 44.6
MaxPreps SoS 16.6 13.3
Points Scored/Game 39.1 42.7
Yards Gained/Game 401.9 207.3
Turnovers/Game 0.9 N/A
Passing Yards/Game 257.1 156.7
Completion % 68.3% 72.5%
Passing Yards/Att 10.3 9.9
Passing TDs 42 20
Passing INTs 6 4
Rushing Yards/Game 144.8 113.2
Rushing Yards/Att 5.1 5.1
Fumbles 7 N/A
Points Allowed/Game 16.8 11.1
Shutouts 3 4
Yards Allowed/Game 267.2 229.2
Takeaways/Game 1.8 2.3
Pass Yards Allowed/Game 123.8 150.0
Completion % Allowed 58.1% 49.8%

Allowed Passing Yards per Attempt

5.5 6.7
Interceptions 9 23
Sacks 18 51
Rush Yards Allowed/Game 143.5 79.2

Allowed Rushing Yards per Attempt

4.9 3.2
Forced Fumbles 12 15

The 23rd ranked Independence team will face off against the top-ranked Weddington team in the 4A West Final.

The Independence Patriots, who were seeded lower than expected, have made an unexpected comeback to reach the 4A West Final. This team’s ranking as the 23rd seed highlights the shortcomings of the NCHSAA’s RPI system. It was widely believed that Independence was a stronger team than their initial seeding suggested.

The Patriots’ defensive performance has been exceptional during the playoffs. They shut out Lake Norman on the road in the first round, defeated East Forsyth’s 4-star quarterback Bryce Baker in the second round, limited 2-seed Watauga to only 14 points in the third round, and held rival Butler, who was seeded 6th, to just seven points in the fourth round. Independence boasts multiple highly skilled recruits on their defense, including sophomore middle linebacker Dallas Brannon who has already received offers from Power 5 schools. Senior safety Quentin Reddish has committed to Virginia Tech and is a 4-star recruit. His younger brother Nick, a sophomore, is also showing potential to become a highly sought after prospect.

Independence’s offense, led by junior quarterback Justin Little, is known for its versatility. Under Coach D.J. McFadden’s guidance, the team relies heavily on RPOs, which can often confuse even the most skilled high school defenders. Little has proven to be a highly efficient passer since taking on the role of starter. So far this season, he has completed 68.9% of his passes, resulting in 2,522 yards, 28 touchdowns, and six interceptions. In addition to his passing abilities, Little has also contributed as a rusher, with 77 carries for 397 yards and nine touchdowns. The team also boasts two standout receivers: senior Vontez Burch (34 catches for 973 yards) and senior tight end Will Brown (25 catches for 487 yards).

Weddington lost two games during the regular season, but still secured a top ranking due to its strong performance against opponents with high winning percentages and their opponents’ winning percentages.

In the previous match, the Warriors were in control against a highly anticipated Grimsley team and emerged as favorites for the state title during both the offseason and regular season. Weddington’s strong running strategy overwhelmed Grimsley’s defense in the latter half of the game, resulting in a 17-point win.

Defensively, Weddington is paced by three sophomore standouts: twin defensive linemen Aiden and Drew Harris and linebacker Thomas Davis Jr. All three players have a litany of Power 5 offers already and they seem to get better by the week. The three have combined for 51 tackles for a loss.

The partnership between Tyler Budge, the committed quarterback of Georgia Southern, and Keenan Jackson, a wide receiver for UNC with 1,525 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, has been a challenge for opposing defenses throughout the season. Weddington’s offensive line has shown strength this year and the team has been successful in their recent running game. Last week, junior Nick Diamond ran for 129 yards and scored three touchdowns on only 14 carries against a formidable Grimsley team.

Weddington was defeated in the 4A West final last year and is aiming to correct that tonight.

Independence Weddington

A total of eleven wins and three losses, with a conference record of five wins and one loss.

Twelve wins and two losses in total, with three wins and one loss in conference play.

Common Opp. 3-1 2-1
MaxPreps Rating 43.5 49.8
MaxPreps SoS 19.1 25.5
Points Scored/Game 39.9 37.7
Yards Gained/Game 369.6 405.8
Turnovers/Game N/A N/A
Passing Yards/Game 180.1 236.5
Completion % 68.9% 62.8%
Passing Yards/Att 11.4 8.8
Passing TDs 28 36
Passing INTs 6 10
Rushing Yards/Game 202.6 169.3
Rushing Yards/Att 7.6 6.2
Fumbles N/A N/A
Points Allowed/Game 15.7 12.7
Shutouts 4 1
Yards Allowed/Game 275.1 248.6
Takeaways/Game 2.4 1.0

Number of Passing Yards Allowed per Game

161.8 131.2
Completion % Allowed 53.8% 50.0%

Yards per Attempt Allowed

5.8 5.1
Interceptions 20 9
Sacks 27 41

Game Average for Yards Allowed in a Rush

113.3 117.4

Yards allowed per rushing attempt.

4.5 4.0
Forced Fumbles 16 6