It probably won’t surprise too many people who follow high school football locally that Mallard Creek starts the season No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16.
The Mavericks are ranked No. 9 in USA Today’s preseason poll, and despite returning just six starters from last year’s4AA state champion, coach Mike Palmieri’s team has restocked and appears every bit as deep and as talented as they were a year ago.
“They’re big, fast and physical,” South Meck coach Rocky White said earlier this month. “I don’t expect to see an ounce of dropoff.”
And you can’t say the Mavericks are ducking anyone either. They are a fighting champion.
Mallard Creek scrimmaged N.C. 4A champion Greensboro Dudley and N.C. 4A runner-up Scotland County four days apart last week. The Mavericks kick off the season Thursday against two-time N.C. 3A Independent Schools champion Charlotte Christian. After that, Mallard Creek plays 2012 N.C. 4AA champion Butler at Providence High.
Only two 4A teams in Mecklenburg County history have repeated as state champs – Butler and Independence – and Palmieri knows becoming the third team to do it won’t be easy. With the preseason and regular-season schedule he’s put together, he wants to make sure his team is ready when it gets its chance to try come November.
OBSERVER'S SWEET 16
|1.||Mallard Creek||4A||16-0||Lost offensive coordinator Aaron Brand to Vance after averaging 51 points per game last season|
|2.||Butler||4A||11-4||14 starters back from NC 4AA state semifinalist; Butler spent offseason with focus on adding size for Mallard Creek|
|3.||Rock HillNorthwestern||4A||15-0||Finished fifth in one national ranking last season after winning S.C. state title|
|4.||Hough||4A||10-2||New coach Miles Aldridge is proven winner who gets playoff team with 14 starters back|
|5.||Independence||4A||8-5||Patriots added several coaches from championship past; 14 starters return, hoping to win big now|
|6.||Rocky River||4A||11-3||Beat Butler to win Southwestern 4A championship last season. Season-opening home game with Richmond Senior is instant barometer|
|7.||Charlotte Christian||IND||12-0||Knights beat Charlotte Latin 48-10 to win back-to-back NCISAA titles; last Division I private to win 3 straight? Charlotte Latin (2005-07)|
|8.||Rock Hill South Pointe||3A||11-3||S.C. 4A power drops to class 3A this season and figures to challenge for the state title; in 2010 and ’11, team was 3A and went 27-3 with two finals appearances|
|9.||Concord||3A||15-1||Seven starters back, including 3 OL to block for Tennessee recruit Rocky Reid, who ran for 3,355 yards and 41 TDs last season|
|10.||South Point||3A||13-1||Clemson recruit Tanner Muse is one of eight starters back for perennial power|
|11.||Providence||4A||8-5||Had most wins since 2006 last year. Coach Justin Hardin back for second season and enters as SoMeck conference favorite|
|12.||CharlotteCatholic||4A||12-3||Cougars rely on tradition to rebuild after five-decade coach Jim Oddo retired and all-time best player Elijah Hood graduated|
|13.||Mooresville||4A||11-2||North Piedmont 3A/4A conference favorite returns 13 starters and looks to repeat last seasonâ’s league title|
|14.||Monroe||2A||13-3||12 starters back for team blessed with speed and athleticism. RB Chase Byrum was his team’s offensive MVP in the 2013 state final|
|15.||East Lincoln||2A||12-2||N.C. Preps all-state QB Chazz Surratt threw for 2,590 yards and ran for 1,624. He’s one of 10 starters back for powerhouse 2A team|
|16.||York, S.C.||4A||10-3||Team is 30-10 the past three seasons. Before coach Bobby Carroll came over from South Pointe, York was 33-47 in seven years|
Also receiving consideration: South Mecklenburg, 4A; A.L. Brown, 4A; Sun Valley, 3A; Ashbrook, 3A; Charlotte Latin, IND; Lincolnton, 2A
ELIGIBLE OBSERVER-AREA TEAMS
Charlotte Country Day
Christ The King
Community School of Davidson
Lake Norman Charter
Concord First Assembly
Pine Lake Prep