University City

Mavericks have team to win N.C. championship

Mallard Creek has been the best team in the state all season and is poised to win the school's first football title.

The balance of offense and defense and the depth this team has all over the field makes it the toughest of any team in the county.

When the state tournament pairings came out late last week, I mapped out who I thought would win each game. I still think the Mavericks are the best team and will win their first title. The second-round game is an intriguing matchup against whoever wins the Vance-Ardrey Kell first-round game.

Assuming Mallard Creek beats South Meck, here is why the second-round opponents would make for interesting matchups against the Mavericks.

Vance

After a slow start, the Cougars have rebounded with four straight wins. The offense, running back Larenz Bryant in particular, has been dominant, and the defense has been respectable.

Vance seemed to get it going after the 55-20 loss to Mallard Creek at the end of August. I would have bet everything I have the Mavericks would have won that game. They have been seeing the image of the Cougars celebrating on their field all off-season and had that game circled on the calendar for more than a year.

A rematch in a one-and-done state playoff would be no cakewalk against a conference foe that knows the Mavericks well.

The Cougars played Mallard Creek tougher than anyone else in the conference this year, and while another playoff win would be unlikely, it is not out of the realm of possibility.

Ardrey Kell

The Knights entered this weekend 7-3, but no team is more battle-tested and rugged.

Close losses to Weddington and Marvin Ridge early in the season set the tone for how the year would go. The Knights have won six of the last seven, and aside from the three-point loss to Butler have been great, finding all sorts of ways to win.

Ardrey Kell beat Providence 7-0 in the season finale, and seven of the Knights' 10 games have been decided by fewer than 10 points; six have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Mallard Creek has not really been tested since its opening-week win against Butler and has rolled easily through the conference. The Mavericks haven't had a game decided by fewer than 24 points since early August.

Ardrey Kell's defensive interior of Romeo Okwara and Ian Dibble is arguably the best in the state and could slow down the high-powered offense of the Mavericks.

The Knights could slow the game down on offense, too, and get Mallard Creek to play a style it is not accustomed to. If that happens, all bets are off.

I still think Mallard Creek beats whoever it plays in the second round, and I think it will win its first title.

Whoever won Friday, however, will present an interesting challenge for Mallard Creek this week.

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