Mallard Creek’s Mavericks are the No. 1 team in the Observer’s preseason Sweet 16 football poll for 2013.
Mallard Creek has started the past two seasons at No. 2 behind the Butler Bulldogs, but the Mavericks have been in the top spot before.
In 2011, they started the season with a 28-20 win at home against Butler. That win ended Butler’s 31-game winning streak and the Mavericks took over the top spot, which they kept for most of the year.
What the Mavericks haven’t done, however, is finish the year at No. 1. Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri figures now would be a good time to start.
The team has 40 lettermen and 13 starters returning. There are some potential hurdles along the way – Mallard Creek plays Butler, Charlotte Catholic and Hough before the playoffs even begin – but Palmieri likes his team’s chances.
Mallard Creek has lost in the state semifinals the past two seasons.
“We better be real hungry,” Palmieri said. “We’ve been working hard now and it’s a process. We lost to two good teams (eventual state champions Greensboro Page and Butler) the past two years.
“...It’s too early to say this is the best team we’ve had, but we’ll be pretty good. We feel we have just as good a chance as anyone to win a state championship.”
Palmieri’s team has college-recruited talent at multiple positions. Quarterback Emiere Scaife has committed to Appalachian State. Tight end Jaylen Samuels has committed to N.C. State. Defensive back Cameron Mattison is headed to Toledo. Defensive linemen Ikeem Allen is bound for Ball State.
With all that talent, and the Mavericks’ preseason national rankings in several polls, Palmieri said expectations are high. He said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Every year you should put pressure on yourself as a coach,” he said. “If your goal isn’t to win a state championship, you shouldn’t be coaching. We understand what’s at stake and we put pressure on ourselves every day at practice, and in every game to win. Our goals are high.
“We’ve been knocking on that (state championship) door the last two years. We’ve been there. Now we’ve just go to finish.”
Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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