University City

Mallard Creek shows Butler that Mavericks are better team

It has been a long time since a game was as hyped as the Butler-Mallard Creek showdown, which kicked off this year's high school football season.

The game lived up to and exceeded the hype. It also reshaped the high school football landscape, and although it is early in the season, it was clear that the better team won last Friday.

Butler had gone 31 straight games and nearly two years, 671 days to be exact, since it last lost. The Bulldogs held the top spot in the Observer's Sweet 16 throughout that time.

The last time they lost to anyone other than Independence, which once dominated area high school football, was Oct. 12, 2007, a one-point loss to East Meck.

Butler has rarely been challenged.

In 2009-2010, the Bulldogs won three games by as little as seven points. Most of the time they blew their opponents out. Last year, only one game was as close as seven points, and they won the state championship game 44-0.

Maybe they overlooked the Mavericks. Mallard Creek surely overlooked Vance last year in the playoffs.

Maybe the Bulldogs aren't built to be behind.

The Mavericks were ready and sprinted out to a 14-0 lead. A turnover gave the Bulldogs hope. They scored before the half, and scored again to tie the game, but it was too much Jela Duncan and Jamel Harbison.

Harbison, a do-everything receiver/punter/kick returner/running back had the clincher, a 40-yard strike to speedy wideout Marquez North on a lateral trick play. Duncan had a long quick strike touchdown and wore down the Bulldog defense.

Head coach Mike Palmieri called the trick play earlier, but it resulted in a penalty. The second time, it resulted in the biggest play in the Maverick's brief history.

Mallard Creek controlled the ball and the time of possession. They had more creativity and executed better on offense and were more effective stopping Butler.

They are the better team. For now.

New Bulldog coach Brian Hales was right when he said coaches are rarely put in his situation, playing a state championship atmosphere game the first time you take the field as head coach.

Palmieri was right when he said he knew his Mavericks had the talent to go toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs.

It is a long season, and these teams could meet again in the state finals. It would be another dream match-up of the two best teams in the state.

The Mavericks proved they are for real, and the loss to Vance last year was a fluke.

Now it is Butler's turn to show they are better than how they played.