Could Mallard Creek join Independence in rare air?
Just 10 years ago, Independence High School was coming off the kind of run of high school football dominance that I never thought I’d see again.
From 2000-07, the Patriots played in eight straight state championship games and, at one point, they won seven titles in a row. Along the way, Independence once won 109 straight games. The Patriots had the greatest coach in N.C. football history, Tom Knotts, and Knotts produced some of the greatest talent in a generation.
Now, Mallard Creek isn’t quite where Independence was, but the Mavericks are beginning tomake me think they have a chance to get there.
On Friday, Mallard Creek, ranked No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll, rolled up to Cornelius and shut down No. 2 Hough 26-10. And that’s not easy to do. The Mavericks had installed a vertical passing attack under new offensive coordinator D.J. McFadden, who was once an All-America quarterback for Knotts at Independence. But early in the week, on film, Mallard Creek’s coaches saw they could run on Hough. So they put away their new offense and went back to their old one.
“We wanted to run it right at them,” Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri said. “They’ve got a lot of good players over there, but on film, we knew we could run it on them. And we do whatever it takes to win. If we have an advantage running it, we’ll run it. If we have an advantage passing it, we’ll do that.”
Mallard Creek threw for 3 yards in the game but ran for 419. Quarterback Casey Kelly ran 20 times for 142 yards. He often ran for key third-down conversions. Tailback Charles Mincey ran for 176 yards and two scores. And the Mavericks didn’t really hide what they were doing.
Like Independence used to do when it was rolling with its vertical passing game, Mallard Creek just dared Hough to stop it.
“We felt we had an advantage with our size,” Palmieri said. “They’re really fast, but they’re not real big. And we felt we’d force their secondary people to tackle. We did that and we made one or two miss and we took it the house.”
Both teams were ranked in top 60 nationally in at least one poll entering the game, and Hough (9-1) was off to the best start in school history, with a team that has at least 15 Division I recruits on the roster. Averaging 41 points per game, the Huskies were held to 31 below their average.
The Huskies have beaten Mallard Creek once in their school history, and they are beginning to look like the Butler High of this generation.
Butler couldn’t beat Independence when the Patriots were having their run of dominance. But in 2009, the Bulldogs finally caught Independence and won three of the next four state championships. Hough may one day have its run, but Mallard Creek doesn’t look anywhere close to done.
Since the start of the 2009 season, Mallard Creek is 64-2 against conference competition. Friday’s win sealed a share of a 10th straight conference championship in what’s generally considered the state’s best conference. In 2007 and ’08, his first two seasons - and the school’s first two seasons - Palmieri’s teams were 3-19. They’ve been 125-13 since. That includes winning three of the past five N.C. 4AA state titles along with a fourth state finals appearance in those five seasons.
And in 2008, the school’s second year, Mallard Creek finished 10-1 but was forced to forfeit nine wins because the Mavericks carried a little-used reserve player on the roster who didn’t realize he was playing out of district.
Palmieri has told me that his current freshman and sophomore classes are the best he’s had. I think this 2018 team might be the best he’s ever had, and it could set up another run of championships. And if Mallard Creek can string together a few more, the Mavericks will pull themselves up to the rare air that those golden Independence High teams still live in.
And winning more rings, make no mistake, is on Palmieri’s mind.
“It always feels good to win another conference championship,” Palmieri said. “We’ve got 10. But we’ve got bigger goals over here. ...We want to be playing our best come playoff time and I think we’re on pace to do that.”
r Vance coach Aaron Brand: Led his team to a come-frombehind win 21-14 win over North Mecklenburg Friday. It was his 50th win at Vance. Brand, in the middle of his fifth season, is 50-17 at Vance. He was 9-4 in one season at West Charlotte in 2008.
rGastonia Huss: The Huskies beat arch rival Gastonia Ashbrook 46-0 to finish 11-0 for first time and to polish off its first unbeaten regular season since 1976. Huss recorded its fifth shutout of the season.
r●ustin Fekete, Community School of Davidson: Threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Renshaw late in the fourth quarter for a 24-20 win over rival Pine Lake Prep Friday.
Mason Boothe, Jake Snapp, Providence: In a 45-27 win over rival South Mecklenburg, Snapp ran 25 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Boothe was 16-for-26 for 256 yards and three touchdowns.
Tevin Clark, Alexander Central: 16 carries for 116 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-22 win over South Caldwell.
Casey Kelly, Mallard Creek: Mavericks’ quarterback ran 20 times for 142 yards and a touchdown in a 26-10 win over Hough, ranked No. 2 in the Sweet 16. Mallard Creek is No. 1.
CharlesMincey Jr., Mallard Creek: Ran 14 times for 176 yard sand two touchdowns in win over
Michael Neel, Charlotte Catholic: Ran nine times for 111 yards in a 39-24 win over Marvin Ridge that clinched the outright Southern Carolinas championship.
Zach O’Bryan, SouthLake Christian: In a 55-0 win over Hickory Grove in the first round of the N.C. Independent Schools’ playoffs, O’Bryan had five tackles, a 10-yard interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
This week saw three high
school football games marred by bench clearing fights during games or ugly fights after games. The N.C. High School Athletic Association forced four area teams - East Meck, Hickory Ridge, Independence and Rocky River - to end their seasons, and give up any postseason eligibility. I’d expect the same for Greenville Conley and South Central, who got into an ugly fight Thursday.
The swift and serious action by the state should help make teen players think twice about their actions in the future. These six teams will lose money, lose Senior Nights, lose chances to set individual and school statistical records and build memories. They remove those same opportunities for their opponents. And we don’t want school officials to start talking about playing games on Saturdaymornings. I remember that was discussed in Charlotte once, about the same time metal detectors were needed at games to deter violence.
I spoke to several coaches this week and the same suggestions kept coming up:
Fewer people on the side
lines, particularly former players and hangers-on who can sometimes build up emotions in pre- game.
Serious penalties for players
approaching players on the other team during pregame (both teams should stay on their ends).
Tighter transfer rules to pre
vent players from playing their own schools so often, and in the same year.
Coaches say there should be
serious fines for students rushing the field after games.
●●nd they think officials have to call games tighter, saying too many overly aggressive actions are not being flagged early, leading to retaliation later.
We all love high school football. Let’s clean it up.
I’ve said all season that this
Charlotte Christian team could become a top 10 Mecklenburg County team of all time with a state title win. The Knights beat Providence Day 28-12 in the Division I semifinals Friday and will have a shot next week at home against Arden Christ School. Providence Day, a wellcoached team stocked with some high-major recruits, has scored 44 points in the past two weeks on Christian. In the previous eight, the Knights allowed 14.
I’m thinking it’ll be more of the latter next week. Book the Knights for a title - and a spot in history.
No. 12WestMecklenburg 31, Berry 20: West Meck (8-1, 5-0) won its eighth straight game and won a share of the SoMeck championship Friday. The Hawks were off from Oct. 5 to Oct. 26 and have turned in two uneven performances in two weeks - Friday’s win over a winless Berry team and last week’s 11-7 win over a two-win South Mecklenburg team. Next Friday, the Hawks face Providence (5-5, 4-1), which has won four straight games and can get a share of the league title as well as the conference’s No. 1 playoff seed with a win. That should get West Meck’s attention.
Charlotte Country Day 45, Covenant Day 5: The Bucs advanced to the N.C. Independent Schools Division II semifinals next week at Charlotte Latin. It’s a rematch of last year’s Division II state final that Latin won 33-0. On Friday, the Bucs led 29-3 after the first quarter and 45-3 at half. Bucs sophomore QB Russell Tabor completed seven passes and three were for touchdowns.
Mooresville 34, West Charlotte 13: Mooresville jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead in the easy win. QB Hunter Debarardino was 18-for-28 passing for 200 yards and two touchdowns. The Blue Devils will try to upset IMECK 4A championMallard Creek next week, which would allow the winner of Hough at Vance to get at least a share of the title.
Olympic 21, Harding 12: Olympic (3-8, 2-4 SoMeck) ended a four-game losing streak with a strong defensive performance. Olympic had allowed 159 points in its past four games. Harding had its two-game win streak snapped and fell to 2-8, 2-3.
Shelby 41, Belmont South Point 25: Shelby won its seventh straight game to win the Southwestern 4A league title. Shelby QB Isaiah Bess had a huge game: 17-of-23 passing for 313 yards and four touchdowns, plus a rushing score.
Mallard Creeks’ Trenton Simpson (22) finds a hole in the defense and picks up the first down against Hough in the fourth quarter Friday.