HUNTERSVILLE Normally, losing a star player can set a high school football team back a few steps.
Not Sweet 16 No. 1 Mallard Creek, which turned to its talent on offense and its tough, physical defense to crush MECKA 4A rival Hopewell 69-0 Friday night.
Jaylen Samuels scored three times, and sophomore quarterback James Smith accounted for two scores for the Mavericks (6-0, 2-0), who face a matchup against No. 3 Hough next week that likely will determine the MECKA 4A title.
“We weren’t looking ahead to playing Hough,” Mallard Creek coach Michael Palmieri said. “We don’t prepare like that. We’re one week at a time; really, one snap at a time now.”
And the Mavericks have had to step up with the loss of quarterback Emiere Scaife. Scaife, who has verbally committed to Appalachian State, suffered a fractured ankle in Mallard Creek’s win over West Charlotte last week and is out for the season.
In his place has stepped Smith, who threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns Friday – a 43-yarder to Vernon Grier and a 37-yarder to Samuels on fourth down, both coming in the third quarter – and added an 11-yard keeper in the second quarter.
Samuels also scored on runs of 1 and 2 yards in the first half as the Mavericks raced to a 34-0 halftime lead. That 37-yard TD pass came during a 28-point third quarter that essentially put things away for Mallard Creek.
“We really miss Emiere,” Palmieri said. “We’re more disappointed for him because he’s put in so much hard work and not be able to help us on the field.
“(But) we’ve got a lot of great players. We’ve got a lot of seniors and a lot of kids with experience on this team. This is the fourth year in a row one of our best players has gone down with an injury. They’ve just responded.”
And the Mavericks scored nearly every way possible Friday against the Titans (1-5, 0-2) – from their defense (a 31-yard interception return by Cameron Mattison), special teams (Iman Nisbett recovered a blocked punt in the end zone in the third quarter), even the offensive line (Timothy Samuels recovered a fumble in the end zone in the first quarter).
Sophomore Ronald Porter, now the backup to Smith, threw a 31-yard tochdown pass to Kenzi Presswood in the third quarter, and Stephon White closed out Mallard Creek’s scoring with a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: @Bkiser_CLTObs
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