Undefeated Titans look to extend perfect season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2023

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By Jay Spivey 

The high school football season is just two weeks old, but there’s already a playoff feel to Friday when undefeated West Forsyth travels nearly two hours for a nonconference game against undefeated Weddington.

West Forsyth (2-0) just came off a 40-29 win at Oak Grove last Friday night, and it has outscored its opponents 48-36.

Weddington (2-0), which is regarded as one of the best teams in NCHSAA Class 4-A, has outscored its opponents 89-3 after routing Concord Cox Mill 54-3 in the first game, and it rolled past Charlotte Ardrey Kell 35-0.

Coach Kevin Wallace, who replaced longtime Coach Adrian Snow at the end of last season for West Forsyth, knows what it’s like to face a team like Weddington coached by Andy Capone.

“Great coach. I’ve known Coach Capone for a long time,” Wallace said. “Andy has done a great job down there. They’ve got a great program, great players, and we’ll look at the film (this past Saturday), we’ll enjoy (the Oak Grove win), and we’ll worry about it (this past Saturday).”

It’s a different season, but Weddington traveled to Clemmons last season and defeated West Forsyth 49-32. Wallace coached at Northwest Guilford before taking over at West Forsyth last December.

“Us playing West Forsyth last year, but not only playing their kids but also playing Northwest Guilford,” Capone said. “Having coached against Coach Wallace, we got a good feel for what they want to do. And me and Coach Wallace talk a bunch, actually. We became pretty close, and it’s fun to get to know him.”

Weddington faced Northwest Guilford, with Wallace as head coach, in the third round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs last year, and Weddington won 35-14. Weddington defeated A.C. Reynolds the following week, West Forsyth’s opponent two weeks ago, but Weddington lost to Greensboro Grimsley 28-27 in the Western Regional championship.

“I call (Wallace) Dr. Coach now because he’s got his doctorate or whatever,” Capone said. “You know, the running back (Caman Chaplin of West Forsyth) is explosive. They do a great job with him. And I think with that big (offensive) line up front, they’re going to be tough, especially in the run game. So, we’ve got to make sure we’re setting up our run gaps and (have) that pretty clean and try to get them in third-and-long situations. The kid’s been explosive.”

To say that Chaplin was explosive in last Friday’s win at Oak Grove would be putting it mildly. After missing the A.C. Reynolds game because of a leg injury, he returned last Friday against Oak Grove and finished with 255 yards rushing on 18 carries and four touchdowns.

“We’ve gotten a lot better since last year,” Chaplin said. “New schemes are working. We’re a lot better defensively and offensively. We’re going to work to get better and continue to get better. It’s a revenge tour at this point.

“We’ve got to keep working, train, work, look at film, and make sure we study and everything. And we’ll be good.”

Of Chaplin’s four touchdowns last Friday against Oak Grove, two of them went for 55 and 60 yards; the 60-yarder came with 1:24 left to help West Forsyth take a 40-29 lead.

“They’re a good team, obviously,” Chaplin said of Weddington. “They always produce good athletes and good talent on defense and everything. It’s just — it’s definitely going to be a tough one, but with our new coaches and everything, with the coaches we have, we’ll come up with a good plan for them, and I’ll just do what I do.”

In last year’s game against Weddington, Chaplin rushed for 100 yards and caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bert Rice.

“It feels like I have to keep proving myself sometimes, but every time you see us, people get stunned by how’s he doing this,” Chaplin said of himself. “But hey, I just keep doing it. I keep showing it.”

The Warriors know they will have their hands full Friday night with Chaplin and the Titans’ dynamic offensive line.

“Sam Neely, our Wake Forest commit, at corner chasing them down, and we held (Ardrey Kell) out of the end zone,” Capone said. “I mean, that’s a huge player. So, they’re (Weddington’s defense), they’re playing fast, and they’re playing physical. I think that’s one thing I can say about us on defense is we’re always going to play physical, and we’re always going to chase to the ball, and we’re going to play fast.”

The Warriors also have plenty of talent on offense. Quarterback Tyler Budge, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior, has committed to play at Georgia Southern and is 24-of-32 passing this season for 515 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Also, Keenan Jackson, a 6-3, 185-pound senior receiver, leads the Warriors with 294 yards receiving on 10 catches and two touchdowns.

“Obviously, with Keenan outside, a Carolina commit, he’s brought just a different, you know, explosiveness to us in the receiver room, but you know this is the biggest we’ve been up front,” Capone said. “We’re still not as big as West Forsyth will roll out on Friday, but it’s the biggest we’ve been up front. We’ve got four seniors on the starting O-line with a lot of experience.”

Budge was 14-of-20 passing last Friday against Ardrey Kell and threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson had 176 yards receiving with a touchdown.

“We’ve got three really good (running) backs — a senior, junior and this freshman we’ve got, who’s really special,” Capone said. “So, we want to be balanced because I feel like we can attack people in a ton of different ways with our line, with our blocking, really with Tyler at quarterback, Keenan at receiver and some other guys stepping up. So, we’re going to do a lot. We’re going to be very multiple, but we just want to get kids in space and try to get to do what they’re good at. We’ve got to make sure we give them that opportunity.”

Aside from West Forsyth being on this “revenge tour” after losing the first four games last year and finishing 4-7, the players had another incentive this week in practice. Because of a blocked field goal last Friday against Oak Grove that kept West Forsyth’s lead at 32-29 late in the game, the West Forsyth coaching staff did something for the players.

“Once we get a big, explosive play like that, we consider that an explosive play, and now they get doughnuts this week,” Wallace said. “So, that’s like everybody’s excited for that.”