University City

Mallard Creek falls just short of their state title dream

Mallard Creek had a dream season.

It would have been a happy dream, except the Mavericks were rudely awakened before it ended.

It's too bad the coaching staff and players fell short of their goal, which was to play for the state title that many had picked them to win. Although they fell Nov. 25 to Greensboro Page in the semifinals, there is a lot to be proud of.

The Mavericks climbed into the top 10 in the country in the MaxPreps.com and ESPN.com national polls. After defeating Butler in the opening week, they cruised through the rest of the regular season, rarely being tested.

The opening playoff win was a blowout over South Mecklenburg. Ardrey Kell was supposed to be a tough matchup but turned out to be another rout. Myers Park gave Mallard Creek trouble in the first half, but the Mavericks' talent took over in the second half for another relatively easy win.

Greensboro Page has a good team. They had defeated two-time defending state champ Butler the game before but were expected to become the next in a lengthening line of victims, especially after Mallard Creek opened a 12-point first-half lead.

Unfortunately, dreams don't always have happy endings.

Behind a Greensboro crowd - a flaw in the state playoffs that put the top-seeded Mavericks on the road instead of at home - Page used the momentum from the final play of the first half and several key Mavericks penalties and turnovers to stop the Mallard Creek season.

Down 19-14, Page quarterback James Summers, an N.C. State signee, flung a hail-Mary into the end zone. The coverage was great, and as the ball was falling incomplete, a Maverick defender kicked it in the air and into the hands of Page receiver Brian Spain, who hauled it in for a score and halftime lead.

That play changed the course of the game, but in no way determined the outcome.

The Mavericks eventually tied the game at 27 on a Jamel Harbison touchdown before turnovers set in.

They fought hard but were overcome by Summers, Page defense and their own mistakes.

Summers finished the game completing 11 of 18 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran 19 times for 152 yards and two more scores.

Harbison lined up as quarterback for much of the second half and was the Mavericks best offensive option.

Star running back Jela Duncan was slowed by the stingy defense in the first half and limited by cramps in the second half. Wideout Marquez North had two touchdowns, and Harbison showed why he is one of the better players in the state no matter where he lines up on the field.

Now that the Mavericks' dream season has ended, it's time to appreciate it for what it was.

It will go down as one of the best seasons a Mecklenburg County team has ever had, and a memory the Mavericks will try to erase when they begin play next season.

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