In my 25 years of covering sports for the Observer, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a losing coach react the way Mallard Creek’s Mike Palmieri did on Aug. 17.
Palmieri’s team had just been whipped by Butler 27-6 in the Mavericks’ high school football season opener at Memorial Stadium. It wasn’t a runaway, never was going to be. But it was one of those games where there was no question who was going to win – to the point that it got downright boring. It was the kind of game where I’ve seen losing coaches become kick-the-wall frustrated. Honestly, there wasn’t anything his guys could have done to change the outcome.
Yet, after the game Palmieri had a big grin on his face. He told me his team was fine. He said he had a lot of new pieces, especially on offense, and that his Mavericks would see Butler again in the playoffs.
It was almost like Palmieri knew something the rest of us did not.
And it looks like Palmieri knew what he was talking about.
After Friday’s 31-0 win over Vance, Mallard Creek has won five games in a row, averaging 56 points. And the Mavericks’ defense, expected to be a strength, has been just that. Mallard Creek has pitched two consecutive shutouts, and during the winning streak has allowed just 5.4 points per game. To be honest, Mallard Creek is getting kind of scary.
“We’re improving every week,” Palmieri said Saturday, quite matter-of-factly. “The young kids we have are starting to get some experience and perform really well for us.”
One of those players is first-year QB Emerie Scaife, a lefty who struggled in the Butler game. He starred in the Vance win, passing for 183 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for another touchdown.
Mallard Creek has seven new offensive starters, and Friday was the first time all season the Mavericks’ complete offensive line was together.
“We’ve been banged up,” Palmieri said. “Kids taking hits, getting headaches, concussions, little nicks and nags, but we’re getting on track.”
The Mavericks’ junior varsity is unbeaten and averaging more than 40 points per game. The varsity is healthy and starting to get to the place Palmieri expected. Mallard Creek will be a big favorite in the next three weeks against North Meck, Hopewell and West Charlotte, and it could end up playing at Hough Oct. 26 for an I-Meck championship. After that, there’s the postseason and that possible meeting with Butler, likely in the state semifinals.
“Right now, “we’re good where we’re at,” said Palmieri, whose team lost in the state semifinals last season. It doesn’t matter what you’re ranked or what other people think. What you’re ranked doesn’t win a state championship. We want to make sure our kids know where we finish is what counts. We’re under the radar. We love playing that role. We feel we can get to the state championship game and hopefully win it. If we weren’t coaching to that goal, we’d be cheating our kids.”
• This is a special season for York coach Bobby Carroll. Carroll, who built the Rock Hill South Pointe powerhouse, has York unbeaten at 6-0 and his son, Spencer, is the QB. Spencer was 18-for-28 for 184 yards and four scores, all in the first half of Friday’s 49-0 win over Fort Mill.
• East Rowan beat West Rowan 13-7 Friday, ending West’s 44-game win streak against Rowan County teams. The hero? East Rowan linebacker Dustin Mowery, who tackled West Rowan’s Brandon Ijames on the 1 as time expired. Talk about memorable. West Rowan’s county dominance lasted 11 years and three weeks.
• Nice bounce-back win for Porter Ridge at Marvin Ridge. The Pirates won 21-14 playing without four starters who were suspended. Porter Ridge only has 35 players.
• Butler QB Riley Ferguson told the Observer he won’t come back from a broken hand until at least the South Meck game Oct. 19. That makes sense. Gives him more time to heal, plus one game back before a potential conference championship game with Independence Oct. 26 and the N.C. 4AA playoffs after that.