Mallard Creek did just enough to keep its hopes for a fourth straight 4AA state title alive Friday night, nipping host Hough 21-16 in a playoff opener.
The Mavericks’ defense dominated the Huskies for most of the game, but penalties and mistakes allowed Hough to stay close.
Mallard Creek was whistled for 21 penalties totaling 172 yards, and the Mavericks fumbled the ball four times. They made a few big plays, though, and stayed alive.
Perhaps the biggest play came with nine minutes left in the game, after Hough had scored a touchdown and closed the gap to 14-10. The Mavericks were facing third-and-19 from their 16, but reserve quarterback Larry Matkins heaved a 51-yard pass to Tre Exume. Three plays later, Darnell Walker ran 18 yards for Mallard Creek’s final score.
Hough had 16 yards of total offense at that point, but the Huskies finally put together a lengthy drive, marching 81 yards and scoring on a short pass from Jackson Gibbs to Cameron Evans with 33 seconds left. On the ensuing two-point conversion try, Mallard Creek’s Ryan Jones leveled Hough’s Evans about 3 yards short of the end zone.
The Mavericks recovered Hough’s onside kick attempt and ran out the clock.
Hough had two excellent scoring opportunities in the first half but got only three points.
The Huskies recovered a Mallard Creek fumble at the Mavericks’ 22 midway through the first quarter but gained only 1 yard in three plays. A Zach Stearns 39-yard field goal try missed wide left.
Then Hough got possession at the Mallard Creek 39 after a 13-yard Mavericks punt. This time, the Huskies drove to the Mallard Creek 10 before being stopped on downs. This time, Stearns converted a 27-yard field goal.
By the time Hough scored, Mallard Creek already had a 14-0 lead.
The Mavericks drove 76 yards on the opening drive and scored on a pass from Chauncey Caldwell to Ryan Jones. The second score came early in the second quarter, on a 3-yard run by Cameron Lowery. That capped an 80-yard drive.
Records: Mallard Creek is 9-2; Hough finishes 7-5.
Worth mentioning: Hough didn’t get a first down until midway through the second quarter – and it came on a Mallard Creek penalty. … Hough will go for a state championship Saturday, as the school’s cheerleading team has reached the N.C. finals. … The Mavericks outgained Hough in the first half 229-4 in total yardage. … It was the team’s second meeting of the season. Mallard Creek won 42-21 on Oct. 6. … Mallard Creek’s Darnell Walker rushed 26 times for 167 yards.
What’s Next: Mallard Creek will travel to Butler next Friday in a second-round game. The Mavericks won at Butler in an August regular-season game. Hough’s season is finished.
Mallard Creek 7 7 0 7 – 21
Hough 0 3 7 6 – 16
MC – Ryan Jones 11 pass from Chauncey Caldwell (Josh Silverstein kick)
MC – Cameron Lowery 3 run (Silverstein kick)
H – FG Zach Stearns 27
H – Cameron Evans 11 pass from Jackson Gibbs (Stearns kick)
MC – Darnell Walker 18 run (Silverstein kick)
H – Evans 3 pass from Gibbs (pass failed)