Seven years ago, when he was still a student — and a baseball watcher — at Appalachian State, Weddington High football coach Tim Carson called Andy Capone and offered him a job.
Carson watched Capone play quarterback at Indian Trail’s Sun Valley, a Union County rival of Weddington’s, and Carson knew that, even though he was a college baseball player, Capone had always dreamed of being a high school football coach.
And Carson thought he saw something special in the 21 year old.
“I watched a lot of college baseball from the bullpen,” Capone said late Friday night after Weddington sent a few shockwaves through N.C. high school circles with a 45-0 win over Charlotte Catholic. “I didn’t play much college baseball, but I knew what I wanted to do.”
Capone spent five years on Carson’s staff, learning the game and developing what had always been a natural feel. He got the head job last season when Carson left to take a position in South Carolina.
In seven seasons at Weddington, Carson’s teams never had a losing record; he was 75-23. In 2014, Carson’s team reached a state final. Two years later, Weddington won a title.
But Weddington has never won the way it did in Capone’s first year. Weddington lost, 20-0, to Charlotte Catholic in its sixth game of the 2018 season, but then ran off to set a school-scoring record, averaging more than 37 points per game. Weddington finished 15-1 and won another state championship. Still, the Warriors were always under-the-radar good, kind of Page 2 material to schools like Mallard Creek and Wake Forest and Shelby.
So after Friday’s win, the Warriors are ready to stake their claim, for the first time, as a bona fide state power.
How else do you describe what they did to an uber-elite program Friday at home?
Catholic had won 66 straight conference games, running through its Union County competition in recent years like Usain Bolt at the Olympics, swiftly and decisively. To say the Cougars had become The Hated — because of their private-school status in a public school league and persistent, if unfounded, rumors of recruiting — is an understatement.
Even the Union County Schools Superintendent took to social media to celebrate Friday’s win, which was just the second time Weddington had ever beaten Catholic.
Trace it all back to Capone, who has taken a team that graduated 17 seniors and 11 starters and somehow made it better. Weddington has now won 16 straight games and scored 40 or more points in 11 of them.
Want to know who the best young high school coach in the area is? It’s him.
“I think the kids just work hard and they buy into what we do and they listen to us and understand we want the best for them,” Capone said. “We lost a lot of good talent, but the kids bought in and I felt good about it going into the season. (Tonight) I didn’t expect this outcome, to win like this, but it’s one of those days when everything works.”
I asked Capone — who is sure to be up for some coaching opportunities at what would be considered bigger programs with bigger names — about moving on up and he quickly shut me down.
He likes Weddington. He wants to stay at Weddington, and if I were the principal and athletics director there, I’d be doing everything I could to make sure that happened.
“This is an unbelievable place,” he said, “with the kids the the community and I can see myself here for a long time.”
▪ I loved seeing all the tweets and memes directed at me by the Weddington faithful, especially after Union County football writer/videographer Tim Winters hit the way-back machine to post a comment I made with Nate Wimberly on football Friday night.
I said I thought Catholic would win Friday’s game (which was then a ways off) and win state. I didn’t know that Catholic would lose its best running back, Lamagea McDowell, who transferred to Hunter Huss, but even without him, I would not have foreseen 45-0 with a running clock.
Kudos to Weddington, for a program-defining win.
▪ Catholic is going to have to figure out how to score points against the better teams. The Cougars are 2-3 and have three of their past four games. They’ve been shut out twice and scored three points in the losses.
But I wouldn’t count the Cougars out. Only once in the past 10 years has Catholic lost three or more games in a season. Despite giving up so many points Friday, Catholic still has an elite defense. If it can figure out how to score at least 20 against good teams, it will have a shot at winning a third straight 3A state title (Weddington will likely go for a repeat in 3AA).
▪ The private school state title race is as wide open as I can remember. Charlotte Country Day appears to be surging — and smack in the middle of it — after a 28-21 win over Catawba Ridge. Stephen Payne had four catches for 117 yards and two scores. QB Russell Tabor threw for 165 and two scores and he ran for two scores. Quinten Jackson had a receiving score and an interception for a TD. Country Day is 6-1 and headed for a third straight winning season.
▪ Butler High is starting to figure things out. The Bulldogs won their third straight game Friday beating Sweet 16 No. 16 Indian Trail Porter Ridge 35-14. Butler (4-2, 2-0) is ranked No. 9 in the Sweet 16 and will play the game of the week at No. 2 Myers Park (6-0, 2-0) Friday.
Friday’s Quick Links
↑Myers Park defense/special teams: Forced four turnovers in a 62-7 win at Rocky RIver. K’Daron Redfearn blocked two punts.
↑Charlotte Latin defense: Three interceptions in a 28-14 win over High Point Christian.
↑Sammy Pinckney, East Rowan: Ran 26 times for 266 yards and a score in a 27-20 win over Mount Pleasant.
↑Evan Bernard, Waxhaw Cuthbertson: Junior QB was 17-for-23 for 231 yards and two scores in a 14-0 win over Unionville Piedmont. He ran eight times for 63 yards and a score.
Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers
Drake Maye, Myers Park: Alabama recruit completed 15-of-20 passes for 345 yards and five touchdowns in a 62-7 win over Rocky River. May connected with Texas A&M recruit Muhsin Muhammad five times for 137 yards and two scores. N.C. State recruit Porter Rooks caught four passes for 116 yards and a score.
Dustin Noller, Mallard Creek: Senior quarterback was 21-of-28 passing for 320 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-0 win over Lake Norman. Noller didn’t play the fourth quarter.
Darius Ocean, Hough: Quarterback completed 14-of-18 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-21 win over Mooresville.
Henry Rutledge, Charlotte Christian: Scored fourth-quarter touchdown that put the game away in a 28-20 win over Trinity Christian Rutlege and finished with 15 carries for 125 yards, averaging more than eight yards per attempt.
Grant Tucker, Charlotte Latin: Freshman defensive back had two interceptions in 28-14 win over High Point Christian.