Mallard Creek High is closing September a better team than when it opened the month.
The Mavericks, No. 2 in the Sweet 16 poll, rolled to their third straight win, a 56-27 victory against West Charlotte in the MECKA 4A opener for both teams. Mallard Creek, the state’s top-ranked 4A squad, is rounding into what was expected of the Mavericks (4-1, 1-0) after a brutal nonconference schedule.
“I think we had to find ourselves a little bit,” said quarterback James Smith, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 244 yards and five touchdowns, which nearly doubled his season’s output. “We were playing separate, so we had to find ourselves as a team so we could come out on nights like this and put up points fast.”
Said coach Mike Palmieri: “We’re getting better. “We wanted to get out of this game healthy and play a bunch of kids because we play on Thursday (at Hopewell). We played good enough to win.”
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Mallard Creek did just that, scoring on five of its first six possessions to pull away from West Charlotte (2-3, 0-1). The Mavericks imposed their will early, and Smith picked the Lions apart, spreading the ball to five different receivers. Mahlon Medley led the way with six catches for 118 yards and a score, while three of Kyle Horton’s four receptions wound up in the end zone.
“I watched their film, and I already knew what they would be in,” Smith said. “I took what they gave me on the field.”
Mallard Creek, which rolled up 337 yards on offense, broke on top early and never trailed in seizing a 35-7 lead at halftime. The Mavericks were powered by Smith’s 10-of-14 passing in the first half for 196 yards and four scores. They took two plays on their first possession to get in front on Smith’s 11-yard strike to Chancery Bowman with 9:23 in the first quarter and Cam Stover’s 7-yard run to take a 14-0 lead into the second.
Mallard Creek piled up 246 yards and 14 first downs in the first half while the defense limited West Charlotte to 67 yards and five first downs over that span. The Lions’ lone score was James White’s 1-yard plunge 12 seconds before the break, which was set up by a 43-yard strike from Izaiyah Cole to Pralowe Grier. Cole, who relieved starter Ron Gant, hit 10 of 12 passes for 158 yards and a score in addition to running for another, but it wasn’t enough.
“If you ain’t the lead dog, the view never changes,” West Charlotte coach Mo Collins said. “We’ve got to get out of the gate faster. Execution killed us again. Fundamentally, we’re not sound enough.”