High School Sports

Friday’s Observations: Butler High finally steps past arch rival Mallard Creek

Butler High running back Nijere Peoples and the Bulldogs finally beat Mallard Creek in the playoffs Friday. Butler had lost to the Mavericks in the postseason the past three years.
Butler High running back Nijere Peoples and the Bulldogs finally beat Mallard Creek in the playoffs Friday. Butler had lost to the Mavericks in the postseason the past three years. David Foster

Butler High offensive coordinator L.J. Johnson said the Bulldogs - plain and simple - were tired of losing to Mallard Creek.

“It’s always left a sour taste in our mouths,” Johnson said after Butler eliminated Mallard Creek from the playoffs, winning 42-28 at home Friday in the second round. “I think that’s a well-oiled machine over there at Mallard Creek, and it took a little bit of a humbling experience, over and over again, to get those guys to buy into more participation in the weight room in the summer, and to pay attention to detail. You don’t win this type of game tonight. You win them in January and February.”

Since the Bulldogs won the 2012 4AA state championship with one of the best teams in Mecklenburg County history, Mallard Creek has blocked Butler’s path back to the state finals. Mallard Creek knocked Butler from the playoffs in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and, before Friday, the Mavericks had won six of the past seven meetings.

In 2012, Butler had won the state title in three of four seasons, building the biggest dynasty in the state since Independence won seven straight state championships from 2000-06. But then, the Bulldogs had to watch as coach Mike Palmieri’s Mavericks dwarfed their accomplishments, winning three straight N.C. 4AA championships, from 2013-15, and making a fast-rise in both national rankings and notoriety.

That all changed Friday.

At halftime, Johnson said his seniors got the team together and promised to rally from a 21-14 deficit.

“They hadn’t stopped anything offensively,” Johnson said. “Everything we scripted and ran all week, we felt we had a chance to capitalize on. Listen, we were down to Richmond Senior (in a 42-41 win in September). No moment is too big for these guys. That’s where the experience of this group helped. They said, ‘Look, we’ll get the ball and go score and put it in the defense’s hands.”

Well, Butler scored 28 straight points against Mallard Creek Friday. Quarterback Davis Cheek threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Butler’s defense held Mallard Creek to 95 total yards in the second half, and the bulk of that came on a final possession that didn’t mean much.

Butler is now two wins away from a first state championship appearance in four years, and Johnson said there’s no way the Bulldogs will think by finally beating the defending champs that their job is done.

“We always have a 48-hour rule,” Johnson said. “We let the guys enjoy it over the weekend. But the fact that the guys are not turning in their (equipment) on Monday will be all the focus these guys need.”

Friday’s Observations

▪ Before Powderville’s S.C. 3A second-round home game with Chester Friday, the team came down through the stands and slapped hands with fans, similar to what Clemson does when it enters its stadium and touches fans’ hands and Howard’s Rock before games. Nice touch by the high school kids.

▪ Porter Ridge senior longsnapper Nick Chiaravalloti and Mallard Creek junior Max Durschlag were named two of the top performers at the Chris Rubio Long Snapping Camp last weekend at Hough High in Cornelius. The two competed alongside 90 players from the Carolinas and 11 other states.

▪ ESPN is part of a group that will put on the first Carolinas Senior Football Showcase March 4 at Charlotte Latin. The showcase is for seniors who do not have a Division I scholarship offer. More than 300 athletes are expected to participate in front of more than 30 Division II, Division III and NAIA coaches. Information: carolinasfootballshowcase.com

▪ At one point this season, Belmont’s South Point High was 1-3. After Friday’s 45-6 win over Waynesville Tuscola, South Point has won seven straight and is eyeing a return to the state championship game. In the run, the Red Raiders have beaten teams by 30 or more points every week. South Point’s defense is allowing an average of 3.85 points during the win streak.

▪ Marvin Ridge beat Robinson 48-28 to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time. The Mavericks started the season 0-3 but will play at Hickory Ridge in a quarterfinal next week. If Marvin Ridge wins, and Weddington beats Asheville Reynolds, the Union County arch rivals would meet in a regional championship in two weeks that would likely stand as one of the two or three biggest games in county history.

▪ East Lincoln beat West Caldwell to advance to the quarterfinals for the fifth straight season.

Page stops West Meck’s run

Greensboro Page 55, West Mecklenburg 26: Greensboro Page (12-1) won its 12th straight and ended West Meck’s playoff run. West Meck led 20-14 after the first quarter. Dyami Brown had a 39-yard pass from Richard Latimer and a 90-yard punt return to build the lead, but the Hawks allowed 41 straight points after that.

Latimer was 14-for-38 for 232 yards and three touchdowns, but he fumbled twice inside the Page 20 and was intercepted twice. Jared Jones rushed 16 times for 83 yards for West Meck and Tyler Barnes caught two scoring passes. Page quarterback Will Jones threw for two touchdowns and ran for three.

Friday’s Top Performers

Brady Berger, Charlotte Catholic: Completed 9-of-10 passes for 191 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-14 win over Mount Tabor.

Jack Brigham, Charlotte Catholic: Brigham ran 13 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-14 win over Mount Tabor.

Davis Cheek, Butler: 9-for-13 passing for 243 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-28 win over Mallard Creek. He also ran for a score.

Denzel Patton, Joey Hobbs, Weddington: Patton ran 14 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-21 win over Ledford. Hobbs had two of his team’s five interceptions.

Kingsley Ifedi, Jeremiah Hall, Vance: Ifedi passed for three scores and ran for two in a 41-38 overtime win over Myers Park. Hall had a 54-yard scoring reception and the game-winning 1-yard run in overtime.

Xavier McClain, Lincolnton: 26 carries for 246 yards, four touchdowns in a 68-27 win over Eastern Randolph.