Mallard Creek football coach Mike Palmieri said he will soon start preparing his team for the 2018 season, trying to figure out how to return to the state championship game.
But after watching his Mavericks lose 21-0 to Wake Forest in Saturday’s N.C. 4AA final, he’ll also have a hard time forgetting two plays that might have changed the outcome.
Before Wake Forest (15-0) scored three touchdowns in the final five minutes to repeat as 4AA champion, Mallard Creek had two chances to do some damage.
A bad snap on first-and-goal at the Wake Forest 8 in the first half turned into second-and-29 – and no points. Later, still with no score, Palmieri tried a punt from midfield, hoping to pin Wake Forest near its goal line. Another bad snap left Wake Forest with the ball at Mallard Creek’s 17 – and led to Chris James’ game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass to John Jiles.
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“Those snaps changed everything,” Palmieri said. “We’re going in to score down there and we get a bad snap. We have the ball on the 50 and we’re going to bury them and get a bad snap. That’s what it was. In order to win a championship, you’ve got to make those plays.”
Records: Wake Forest is 15-0; Mallard Creek is 14-1
THREE WHO MATTERED
Devon Lawrence, Wake Forest: UNC recruit ran 25 times for 135 yards and a score in a game in which yards were hard to come by – at least early. Lawrence was game MVP.
Nasjzae Bryant, Mallard Creek: Mavericks star ran 20 times for 106 yards and had the game’s longest play, a 25-yard run. Bryant was his team’s offensive MVP.
Cameren Lowery, Mallard Creek: Senior linebacker had a game-high 11 tackles and helped his team stay in the game until late.
▪ Mallard Creek’s offense produced just 29 points in its final three games. The Mavericks struggled to get receivers open for quarterback Jadyn Washington, who finished 3-for-13 for 33 yards. Senior receiver Lovelle Williams was missed. He broke his ankle against Hopewell Oct. 13 and had shown star potential.
▪ Early in the third quarter, Mallard Creek had the ball at the Wake Forest 10 on fourth down and tried a fake field goal instead of short attempt. The play resulted in a 15-yard loss. Palmieri said he didn’t regret the decision.
“I thought we could catch them in something,” he said. “We saw some stuff on film, but we rushed it and didn’t execute it.”
▪ Palmieri, who began the season with 19 new starters, lost three of them late in the season. He’s excited about his team’s prospects for next season. He should be. Talent will be plentiful. ... Mallard Creek’s Jacob Roberts was voted his team’s defensive MVP.
NC 4AA FINAL
WAKE FOREST 21, MALLARD CREEK 0
Wake Forest 0 0 0 21 -- 21
Mallard Creek 0 0 0 0 -- 0
WF: John Jiles 20 pass from Chris James (Nolan Parris kick)
WF: Marquis Dunn 54 run (Parris kick)
WF: Devon Lawrence 7 run (Parris kick)