Weddington, N.C. — Weddington is the reigning runner-up in the 4A West region. The Warriors fell in a 28-27 thriller against Grimsley. The good news is that 2022 Weddington team that came up just short of a championship appearance was loaded with young talent. The Warriors return a total of 15 starters from last season. Further, many of those starters play in key spots. Here’s a report of what I learned at one of the Warriors’ spring practices.
The Warriors are looking to be in very good shape at the quarterback spot. Rising senior Tyler Budge has picked up a litany of offers over the offseason, most of which came from group of five schools. Budge emerged as a great passer last season, throwing for 3,219 yards and 34 touchdowns to only 14 interceptions. Budge completed 60.2% of his passes on 382 attempts. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound signal caller has a big arm and he’s not afraid to push the ball down the field.
Weddington’s leading rusher from a year ago Nick Diamond is back for his junior season. Diamond rushed for 573 yards and nine touchdowns on just 73 carries in 2022. Diamond is a smaller back at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, but you wouldn’t be able to tell based off how he runs. The rising junior is an angry runner who punishes arm tacklers. His tape shows pretty good vision after he breaks tackles as well. Weddington also returns its third-leading rusher from last year in senior Brady Ritter. Ritter rushed for 484 yards and two touchdowns on 85 carries.
The guys up front could be a strength for Weddington. The Warriors have four starters back on the offensive live from last year’s team.
The standouts up front will be senior Logan Potes and junior Jimmy Randazzo. Both of these players have solid frames. Randazzo is becoming a mauler at 6-foot-5 and nearing 300 pounds. Randazzo has played at both the right guard and right tackle spots but ended last season at the guard spot. He holds an offer from UNC-Charlotte. Potes, Weddington’s left tackle, is 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds. He has very good feet and can move well in space for his size. He is a top lineman in the conference in terms of technique.
Rising freshman Bryce Johnson has a very solid body to start with. He stands at 6-foot-3 and already weighs near 300 pounds. Some colleges are already aware of Johnson. He will be in competition with two others for the last starting spot. Regardless of the outcome, Weddington will feel comfortable going eight deep up front.
The pieces that aren’t back from Weddington’s offense are at the receiver position. Graduating wideouts Evan Gilbert, Zymill Patterson, Griffin Reimer, Brett Williams, Mason Cooper-Hudson, Jalen Grullon, and Bryson Dermid combined for 3,107 receiving yards. That was about 91 percent of the receiving production.
The Warriors have a major reinforcement coming in at that spot in Cuthbertson transfer Keenan Jackson, a 3-star prospect who is a big recruit for the in-state ACC schools. Jackson boasts a 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. Jackson presents a nice contrast to the smaller frames of the receivers Budge was used to. Expect Budge to sling it to Jackson on deep routes on a regular basis.
Defensively, there are a lot of pieces to be excited about.
Rising senior defensive back Sam Neely is a Wake Forest commit. Neely chose Wake Forest over offers from Appalachian State University, Dartmouth College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of Connecticut, East Carolina University, Eastern Michigan University, James Madison University, Liberty University, Marshall University, Old Dominion University, Princeton University, the University of Rhode Island, and Yale University. There are a couple of other solid players back in the secondary: rising senior Ian McDermaid and rising junior Caleb Hill.
The Warriors are losing top linebacker Jack Collins to graduation but have a few guys that will do well in that group. Rising junior Braeden Barger was second on the team with 82 tackles last year and rising senior outside linebacker Michael Luisa had 80.
Weddington had three freshman standouts on defense last season: twin defensive linemen Aiden and Andrew Harris and outside linebacker Thomas Davis Jr. All three players have picked up Power 5 Division I offers since the end of the season. Aiden, who is more of an interior guy, and Andrew, more of an edge guy, both had 54 tackles last season. Davis Jr., the son of a player Panthers fans know well, had 31 tackles.
Weddington is a heavy favorite to win the Southern Carolina 4A and it will be right in the mix in the 4A West once again.