Weddington behind a strong defense and timely offense defeated A.C. Reynolds, 17-10 in the fourth round of the 4A West Regionals. After a scoreless first quarter, Weddington scored early in the second on a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Knox Willingham. A 42-yard field goal and Weddington took a 10-0 lead into halftime.
As I summarized during the half on Twitter, it was the Warrior defense that came to play and the offense providing a cushion at home for the final two quarters.
Defense & field position told the story in this first half. Weddington strung together a # of positive yardage plays- not much from ACR in that department. Lot of ball to play, but a 10 pt. lead at home is a tough ask for many opponent offenses at this place in the postseason.— Tim Winters (@UCNCFootball) November 26, 2022
A.C. Reynolds came out in the third quarter playing with urgency connecting on a big pass for over 40 yards that gave the Rockets the ball first and goal on Weddington's seven-yard line.
The Warriors' defense buckled down, dropped Reynolds for a loss on two consecutive run plays and on a long third and goal, flushed the Rockets' quarterback out of the pocket, and quickly swarmed and tackled him for little to no gain forcing A.C. Reynolds to settle for a field goal.
On Reynold's next possession, Weddington's middle linebacker Jack Collins sniffed out a pass to pull down an interception to thwart another Reynold's offensive possession.
Weddington capitalized on the turnover when a 40-yard Willingham run set up his short 4-yard pass to Evan Gilbert late in the third quarter to extend Weddington's lead 17-3.
Early in the fourth quarter, Reynolds connected on another big pass play, this one connecting for a 45-yard touchdown with 10:04 remaining in regulation, Weddington holding onto a 17-10 lead.
Weddington's defense was tested two more times in the final eight minutes. On the first series, Reynolds started their drive on Weddington's 27 but struggled to gain a first down, falling inches short on a 4th down and four pass play.
After Weddington's offense ate four minutes off the clock, they punted, giving Reynolds one last shot at tying the game up from their 42-yard line with two minutes to play. However, the Warriors' defense stepped up again, snuffing out three Rocket plays and forcing a fourth down and 13.
On A.C. Reynolds' final offensive play, pressure from Knox Willingham impacted the quarterback's release, causing an overthrow on an open receiver over the middle. Game over.
Defense wins championships, and at home on Friday night, Weddington's defense delivered. It's the football program's pedigree. From Jenkins to Hobbs and Murphy, Mock, Mustapha, and the Shipleys to the present of Collins and Willingham. A tribute to the coaching staff and the student-athletes that execute on Friday nights.
The Warriors advance to their fifth regional championship game on Friday night in Greensboro against Grimsley. Grimsley is 14-0, averaging 46 points per game and surrendering 20 points per game on defense over their 14-game season.
A closer look at their four-game postseason shows us that their offense is producing better with 48 points per game, but their defense is underperforming against better competition giving up 35 points per game.
Weddington has another test, and the defense will need a bigger performance this week if they hope to play for a state title.