High School Sports

High school football: Mallard Creek returnees win awards at combine

Tanner Tally from Mallard Creek High School takes part in a drill. Some of the Carolinas’ top football players participated in the VTO Elite 100 camp Sunday at Mallard Creek High.
Tanner Tally from Mallard Creek High School takes part in a drill. Some of the Carolinas’ top football players participated in the VTO Elite 100 camp Sunday at Mallard Creek High. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

If there’s any question about Mallard Creek having the talent to make a run at a third straight state football title, the team’s performance at the VTO Sports Elite 100 combine might settle it.

Three returnees earned awards during Sunday’s combine, which drew nearly 140 of the top high school talent from four states to Mallard Creek High.

Mallard Creek’s De’Jour Simpson, who will be a senior next season, was named the combine’s outstanding offensive lineman. Teammate Tanner Tally, a rising junior, was named the outstanding defensive back and defensive tackle Grant Gibson earned the inaugural Mo Collins Memorial award as the combine’s outstanding overall lineman.

“We work hard, so we always have guys behind those players that leave,” said Gibson, who also will be a junior next season. “We should make a pretty good run next season.”

Last year, the Mavericks went 15-1 en route to winning their second straight N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA championship, knocking off Wake Forest 25-14 in the final in Winston-Salem.

Can Mallard Creek go for state title No. 3 next season? Gibson believes it can.

“A lot of people don’t think we can, but they say that every year and we wind up having a good year,” Gibson said. “When we hear that, we go out and work harder, then go out and compete on Friday night.”

Breakthrough year: Joey Bernardini had a breakthrough junior season, rushing for 2,134 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading Community School of Davidson to a program-best 5-7 record.

Bernardini – named the outstanding running back of Sunday’s combine – said the pressure is on to improve his performance and the Spartans’ finish.

“A small school like CSD, no one thinks we have a good football program,” Bernardini said. “Then they come and see us play, and they see us coming together.”

Road trip pays off: Most of the players at Sunday’s combine came from North and South Carolina, with a smattering from Virginia – and one from Connecticut.

That trip paid off for West Haven (Conn.) Notre Dame’s Christian Lupoli, who was named the combine’s outstanding quarterback.

“I was visiting UNC (Saturday), and my quarterbacking coach, Leemond Johnson, is also down here,” said Lupoli, who threw for 1,977 yards and 15 touchdowns last season as the Green Knights went 9-4. “It just happened that this camp was going on down here, so I decided to attend.”

Other winners: Other award winners at the combine were Anson County’s Timothy Horne (defensive lineman), Rocky River’s Johari Alexander (wide receiver), Hanahan (S.C.) High’s Tre’ Smalls II (linebacker), Ledford’s Mason Flynt (tight end), and Devin Johnston of Magna Vista High in Ridgeway, Va. (“sleeper” award).

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