Mallard Creek sure didn’t play like the No. 2 team in the Sweet 16 rankings Friday, and coach Mike Palmieri made sure his players knew it.
The Mavericks responded in the second half, rallying from a 30-point deficit to beat 13th-ranked Hough 37-30 and remain undefeated in the MECKA 4A.
Quarterback James Smith keyed the second-half comeback for Mallard Creek (6-1, 3-0), running for 117 yards and three touchdowns, and throwing for 304 yards and a score to keep the Mavericks undefeated against the Huskies.
Smith, a junior, broke Hough’s shutout with a 1-yard keeper midway through the third quarter. He found Kyle Horton – who had seven catches for 130 yards – on a 38-yard TD pass midway through the fourth quarter.
Smith then added two more TD runs in a three-minute span – a 1-yard keeper with 3 minutes, 46 seconds left that tied the game at 30-30, and a 6-yarder with 45.7 seconds remaining to give the Mavericks their first and only lead.
“We didn’t execute, and we didn’t make plays in the first half,” Palmieri said. “(Hough) came out fired up. We told our kids at halftime to take it one play at a time.
“That’s what we did – we came back and made some plays. That’s what it’s all about.”
It was the Huskies that made all of the plays in the first half, bolting out to a 27-0 halftime lead, and going up 30-0 with 9:36 remaining on Zach Stearns’ 32-yard field goal.
Stearns hit two other field goals in the first half – a 45-yarder midway through the first quarter to put Hough up 3-0, and a 21-yarder early in the second quarter for a 6-0 lead.
Van Smith had touchdown runs of 2 and 6 yards, and Bishop Ford (who ran for 143 yards) added a 2-yard TD, all coming during a 24-point second quarter that appeared to put the Huskies in command.
“They’re an outstanding team,” Hough coach Miles Aldridge said of Mallard Creek. “I guess this was a tale of two halves – we played a good first half, they played a better second half.
“We didn’t do the things to finish the game. We probably played well enough in some instances to win, but we didn’t play well enough to finish the win. We didn’t deserve to win, and that’s my fault.”