Butler’s defense picked off three Mallard Creek passes in the second half and rallied from a shaky start Friday night with 28 straight points and a 42-28 victory that ended the Mavericks’ three-year reign as state 4AA champs.
Bulldogs defenders Damel Hickman, T.J. Cusick and Aramis Algood intercepted Mavericks passes in the second half, and Butler converted two of those turnovers into touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Butler quarterback Davis Cheek shredded the Mallard Creek defense for three long touchdown passes, helping the host Bulldogs rally from a 21-14 halftime deficit.
The Mavericks (9-3) took advantage of two Butler (12-1) mistakes in the first half to build the lead at intermission, but the defending state champs found their offense stymied by Butler over the final two quarters.
The Bulldogs drove 72 yards on their first possession of the third quarter and tied the game at 21 on a 9-yard run by Cheek. On Mallard Creek’s next series, a Chauncey Caldwell pass was picked off by Hickman at the Butler 30. Aided by a Mallard Creek offside penalty that kept Butler’s drive alive, the Bulldogs scored on a 45-yard pass from Cheek to Kusegi Cureton for a 28-21 lead.
Butler then forced Mallard Creek to punt, and the Bulldogs scored three plays later on a 37-yard pass from Cheek to Anthony McGill.
Butler’s final touchdown came early in the fourth quarter, on a 1-yard run by Nijere Peoples. That came two plays after Cusick intercepted a pass by Mallard Creek backup quarterback Deonte Grier and returned it 74 yards. That pushed the lead to 42-21 and made a last-minute Mallard Creek touchdown insignificant.
Two mistakes cost Butler a comfortable first-half lead.
The Bulldogs were up 14-7 midway in the second quarter and had Mallard Creek facing a third-and-13 from its 17. The Bulldogs were called for interference on an overthrown pass, giving Mallard Creek a first down. The Mavericks then drove the remaining 68 yards, scoring on a 31-yard pass from Chauncey Caldwell to Ryan Jones.
Late in the quarter, the Bulldogs defense forced Mallard Creek to punt from the Butler 37. A Bulldogs kick returner called for a fair catch at the 3, but lunged for the ball and fumbled it. Mallard Creek recovered at the Butler 2 and scored on the next play.
Long passes led to Butler’s first-half touchdowns. The first score came on a 70-yard pass from Cheek to Dirk Cureton. The second score, a 1-yard Nijere Peoples run, came one play after Cheek completed a 43-yard pass to Kusegi Cureton.
Records: Mallard Creek finished 9-3; Butler is 12-1.
Worth mentioning: The victory was the second for Butler interim head coach Mike Nahum, who replaced Brian Hales after Hales was charged this month with assault. … The two teams have accounted for six of the past seven N.C. 4AA football championships. Butler won in 2009-10 and 2012, and Mallard Creek won in 2013-15. Greensboro Page was the 2011 champion. … Despite the loss, Mallard Creek finally solved its season-long penalty problems. The Mavericks were whistled for 49 yards in penalties – 145 yards fewer than last week. … Butler’s Cheek finished with nine completions in 13 attempts for 243 yards and three touchdowns. … Mallard Creek was held to about 95 yards total offense in the second half, and most of that came on a scoring drive in the game’s final minutes.
What’s Next: Butler will be home next Friday against Vance, which beat Myers Park 41-38 in overtime.
Mallard Creek 7 14 0 7 -- 28
Butler 7 7 21 7 -- 42
MC- Cameron Lowery 3 run (Josh Silverstein kick)
B-Dirk Cureton 70 pass from Davis Cheek (David Schaar kick)
B-Nijere Peoples 1 run (Schaar kick)
MC-Ryan Jones 31 pass from Chauncey Caldwell (Silverstein kick)
MC-Lowery 2 run (Silverstein kick)
B-Cheek 11 run (Schaar kick)
B-Anthony McGill 37 pass from Cheek (Schaar kick)
B-Peoples 1 run (Schaar kick)
MC- Jordan Smith 6 pass from Deonte Grier (Silverstein kick)