Last Saturday, South Carolina power Dutch Fork was scheduled to play Mallard Creek at Memorial Stadium in a high school football game matching teams ranked in several national top 100 polls.
Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts called it “a certain kind of Super Bowl.”
Inclement weather forced the game to be canceled. But in a lot of ways, Friday’s Mallard Creek-Butler game is a “certain kind of Super Bowl” II.
The Mavericks and Bulldogs have both been nationally ranked for much of this decade. The teams have combined to win six of the past nine N.C. 4AA state finals, and one of them has played in the finals seven times in nine years.
This year’s game will be played at the 4,000-seat Matthews SportsPlex instead of at Butler, which has about half the seating.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Butler coach Brian Hales said. “Anytime it’s us hooking up with Mallard Creek, it’s going to be a big night. It can be at the SportsPlex, the parking lot, Butler, Mallard Creek ... it doesn’t matter. It’s going to be a big game.
“It’s two programs who are really familiar with each other, and it’ll come down to who’s going to make plays and who’s going to protect the football.”
Hales’ team whipped Scotland County 47-19 last week at Memorial Stadium in a game that was delayed for more than an hour because of lightning and heavy rain.
Butler — led by quarterback Christian Peters, running backs Jamal Worthy, Quasean Holmes and receiver Keyon Lesane — looked fast and ready.
Butler was 8-3 last season, ending a 12-year run of consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins.
The Bulldogs seem determined, and look talented enough, to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Mallard Creek, meanwhile, didn’t get to play, so the Mavericks were unable to identify specific areas to address in practice to prepare for Butler.
But Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri said that’s OK.
“We don’t have any excuses,” Palmieri said. “We’re ready to play. Our kids are anxious and understand that the weather was out of our control last week.”
Mallard Creek beat Butler 42-9 last season and leads the all-time series 8-4. The Mavericks have won four of the past five meetings, but this Butler team — fueled by nearly two dozen seniors — could be the best since 2012, when the Bulldogs won their last N.C. 4AA championship and beat Mallard Creek twice.
Palmieri, though, said he feels really good about his team, too.
A year ago, the Mavericks took a young team to the state finals, starting a freshman wide receiver in the championship game. This Mallard Creek team, he said, is deeper, more experienced and faster, thanks to a major commitment to the Mavericks’ offseason strength-and-conditioning program.
“In my crystal ball,” Palmieri said, “it compares pretty good (with some of the best teams he’s had at the school). We feel really excited about the kids we have. Looking at practice, we feel we have a chance to win a state championship, but we’ve got to do it on the field. But as far as the eye test? Well, we’re pretty good.”
On Friday, Butler will provide Palmieiri with a real look at how good his team is and could be. And Mallard Creek’s coach said he can’t wait for kickoff.
“It’s a big game every season,” he said. “It’s two good programs going at it. We’ve been playing the last six or seven years, sometimes twice a season, and we look forward to it. I would say this is our main rival and they’ve been a great program for a long time, and we always get excited to play against a great program like Butler.”
Mallard Creek-Butler all-time series
2017: Mallard Creek 42-9
2016: Mallard Creek 35-20; Butler 42-28*
2015: Mallard Creek 24-10; Mallard Creek 35-30*
2014: Butler 28-27; Mallard Creek 56-14*
2013: Mallard Creek 20-7; Mallard Creek 56-14*
2012: Butler 27-6; Butler 27-0*
2011: Mallard Creek 28-20
* Playoff meeting