MINT HILL Mallard Creek High warmed quickly to its first football challenge of the season.
The Mavericks, last year’s N.C. 4AA state champions, overcame an early deficit to beat Scotland 13-7 in a scrimmage on Friday at Rocky River. The Fighting Scots, the 4A runner up in 2013, struck first on Quadrin Williams’ 17-yard run up the middle for a 7-0 lead, but Mallard Creek rebounded by seizing the line of scrimmage.
“The first drive defensively we knew we were going to be a little difficult,” Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri said. “We didn’t game plan for them and they have good athletes over there. We needed it. We needed to get punched in the mouth a little bit.”
Mallard Creek junior quarterback James Smith overcame a shaky opening drive to connect with Vernon Grier on a 32-yard touchdown strike to pull the Mavericks to within a point in the first quarter and his 13-yarder to Cam Stover in the second accounted for the game-winner. Smith unofficially went 6-of-8 for 106 yards.
“We came out more focused than we were this past week,” he said. “We came back with high intensity and we were motivated and well prepared.”
“I thought he was sharp,” Palmieri said. “(Offensive coordinator Joe) Cox does a great job and we’ve got great receivers, but he’s our leader. He’s the guy we’re counting on.”
Defensively, Mallard Creek was stout after Scotland’s opening possession, which went 70 yards in 10 plays. The Mavericks shut out the Scots’ passing attack after the first drive as well as forced a fumble that resulted in Smith’s touchdown pass to a diving Grier in the end zone. Once the passing game was established, Mallard Creek turned the running game loose, gaining 46 yards on nine carries. Stover led the way with 29 yards on seven carries.
“We’ve got players,” Palmieri said. “We’re not worried about one series or one play in the game. We’re going to play 48 minutes and we’ve always been that way. We’ve just got to respond, and we’ve been able to do that.”
Other scrimmages: North Rowan topped host Rocky River 14-7, Anson County beat Statesville and Cuthbertson topped Hopewell.
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