Mallard Creek and Charlotte Christian came into Thursday’s high school football kickoff night with double-digit win streaks and as reigning state champions.
Sweet 16 No. 1 Mallard Creek extended its win streak to 17 games, coming back in the second half to beat the Knights 28-21 at Memorial Stadium.
“This football team we played today is well coached, it’s got great players,” said Mallard Creek coach Michael Palmieri. “They don’t have much depth, they’ve got a certain number of guys, but the guys they have are tough.
“It’s the first game. We knew either way, win or lose, we were going to come out a better team after playing such a good football team. We were just fortunate enough to make one or two more plays than them.”
No. 7 Charlotte Christian, the reigning Division I private school state champion that had won 19 straight games, had no problem handling the size of the 4AA state champion Mavericks in the first half.
But the depth of Mallard Creek, ranked preseason No. 9 by USA Today, showed in the second half. The Mavericks controlled the line of scrimmage on their two touchdown drives in the third quarter and the Knights offense struggled to get anything going.
Several Charlotte Christian starters spent time on the sideline in the second half with minor injuries or cramping.
“We kind of feel like, over here, if we stay healthy on this sideline, maybe it’s a little bit different by the end of the game,” said Knights coach Jason Estep. “But at the end of the day I think any coach would agree that the goal is to make sure you give yourself a chance to win at the end of the game, and we did that.”
Quarterback John Turley threw two first-half touchdowns to give his Knights a 14-7 advantage at the break.
The first was a 31-yarder in the first quarter to Matthew Weigel, who caught it in his fingertips while falling into the end zone.
Mallard Creek answered with 6 minutes, 4 seconds left in the half when quarterback James Smith took a bootleg to the right for a 6-yard score on fourth and 2.
Turley’s second touchdown pass came on the ensuing drive. He picked up a bad snap and scrambled to his right before finding Alex Parker for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Mallard Creek took the lead in the second half with two third-quarter scores.
Running back Chancery Bowman scored on a 9-yard run, but the Mavericks still trailed 14-13 after a missed extra point.
At the end of the third, Smith scored his second rushing touchdown on a 2-yard quarterback keeper. He also ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 21-14.
The Mavericks made it 28-14 in the fourth on a 10-yard run by Bowman.
Charlotte Christian’s lone second-half score came on a 38-yard pass from Turley to Justus Woods with 1:14 left. The Knights failed to recover the ensuing onside kick.
Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe
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