High School Sports

Unbeaten Mallard Creek, Vance set for Saturday night football showdown

In 2016, Vance and receiver Jaylin Carr beat Mallard Creek 38-21 to end a seven-game losing streak against the Mavericks. The teams, both ranked in the top 10 of the Sweet 16 and the N.C. 4A state poll, meet Saturday night at UNC Charlotte.
In 2016, Vance and receiver Jaylin Carr beat Mallard Creek 38-21 to end a seven-game losing streak against the Mavericks. The teams, both ranked in the top 10 of the Sweet 16 and the N.C. 4A state poll, meet Saturday night at UNC Charlotte. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Much of the build-up around Saturday’s Mallard Creek-Vance high school football game has been about Mallard Creek’s new-look offense.

New offensive coordinator D.J. Fadden, a former state champion at Independence High, has installed a spread formation passing attack that has produced 55 points per game in three weeks, a big jump over the 31 points the Mavericks have averaged over the past two seasons.

But Vance coach Aaron Brand, whose record is 1-3 all-time against neighboring Mallard Creek, believes Saturday’s game will come down to the same thing it always does when his Cougars face their I-MECK conference rivals from 5 miles away.

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Vance (4-0) and Mallard Creek (3-0) kick off at 8 p.m. Saturday night at UNC Charlotte’s Richardson Stadium.

“I don’t think they’re great on offense by any means,” Brand said. “They’re going to have to show me. They are an outstanding, outstanding defensive team.”

Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri says his team is well-rounded.

“He’s got his opinion,” Palmieri said of Brand. “We’re going to have to go out there and show him. I don’t know what else to say about that. Our kids are excited and ready to go.”

Brand notes that Mallard Creek has beaten Berry 77-0 and Harding 52-7. Both of those teams are allowing more than 45 points per game and have not won this season.

“To beat Mallard Creek,” Brand said, “you’ve got to be able to block them, first and foremost. They’re not a big blitz team, but they get so much pressure with their defensive line that it becomes hard to throw. If you can block the front four, you’ve got a chance. We couldn’t last year.”

Mallard Creek beat Vance 27-13 in 2017. The Mavericks have won eight of the past nine meetings. Vance won 38-21 in 2016.

This season, both teams are ranked in the top 10 of the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll and in the N.C. Associated Press statewide 4A poll.

Mallard Creek has reached four of the past five N.C. 4AA state championship games, winning three times. Vance has played in the N.C. Western Regional championship game, or state semifinal, three times in Brand’s four-year tenure.

Palmieri said he expects Saturday night to be what it always is: a four-quarter football game.

“They are well-coached,” he said. “Our kids are preparing for a 48-minute football game. It’s a conference game. I don’t know how much of a rivalry it is, but the two (schools) are pretty close to each other. We’re going to try to win the game by playing hard and doing the things we teach our kids to do.”

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