Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said he was “real disappointed” his team didn’t get a chance to beat S.C. 5A state champion Dutch Fork Friday night.
And he is sure his Mavericks were in position to do just that.
Mallard Creek had rallied to take a lead — lost the lead — and came back to tie a game that had been about as highly anticipated as any played in the Carolinas over the past two decades.
Then, just as he had planned for, Palmieri felt the Mavericks had their best shot late.
“We’ve got the ball,” Palmieri said, “and you work hard all summer for something, and all of a sudden, something happens that you can’t control and that’s frustrating.”
Here’s what went down: with the game tied at 27, Mallard Creek began a drive that looked like it might deliver the go-ahead and possibly game-winning points. First-year QB Dustin Noller passed the Mavericks down the field and Mallard Creek arrived at the Dutch Fork 14. Third and 12. Less than five minutes to play.
Then, for the third time Friday night, the game was stopped due to lightning. Not too long after that, Dutch Fork school officials ended it.
It was after midnight by then. The game, televised on ESPN, began at 6:05 p.m.
Was it the right call? Absolutely. Mallard Creek still had to drive more than two hours home and the kids from both teams had to be tired and hungry -- even though everyone wanted to see a finish between these national heavyweights.
“It was getting awful late,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “It would’ve been at least 12:45 or 1 o’clock (if we had resumed).”
Knotts won a state championship at West Charlotte in 1995. He won six at Independence from 2000-07, and he has won four at Dutch Fork since 2010, including the last three. Knotts has never lacked for candor or confidence, and even with Mallard Creek beginning to take control of the game, he always felt his team would pull through.
“I felt like we were going to stop them on third-and-12,” Knotts said, “and they were going to kick a field goal and we were going to block it, score and win the game. I wanted to finish it.”
Knotts said he thought his team seemed fresher, though it didn’t appear that way. Mallard Creek was bigger, hit harder and was really beginning to dominate the lines of scrimmage. Dutch Fork QB Ty Olenchuk, a Clemson baseball commit, ripped up the Mavericks’ defense for 295 yards and four touchdown passes, including a couple of trick plays, but as the game wore on, Mallard Creek was beginning to pressure him.
And if this game didn’t have as many stoppages as it did, those advantages might’ve shown themselves earlier — which was Palmieri’s game plan all along.
“It took us a couple drives to get our feet under us,” Palmieri said. “They made a couple trick plays and we were there, but their guy just made a play. But we wanted to get it to the fourth quarter. We felt like we had a little more depth and in the fourth quarter, I thought our depth was showing.”
Both coaches want to tell you why their team was better. After the these two never got to play last year — a highly anticipated game at Memorial Stadium never started due to weather — watching this one for 3 1/2 quarters was worth the wait.
And by playing each other, the teams will only be better.
Both states will provide the Silver Foxes and the Mavericks with excellent competition, but if they can find this level in the playoffs — and eliminate some of the early-season mistakes that showed up Friday — you’re looking at a pair of state champions.
“Man, they’re really good,” Palmieri said of Dutch Fork. “They’re going to be tough to beat. They’ve got a lot of tough players. Tommy is one of the top coaches in the country. He probably is the best. He had his kids prepared. This was a great atmosphere. But we’re used to playing in these big games, and after the first quarter, I thought we controlled them.”
▪ I think most teams in the immediate Charlotte-area should’ve looked at the forecast and punted on trying to play Friday. A lot of area teams were forced to reschedule games, after having fans, game officials and teams show up to watch rain and Mother Nature’s sky show.
A few CMS coaches called the Observer to express frustration that they were not allowed to play Saturday. Playing on a Monday means two games in five days. CMS athletics director Sue Doran said playing on Saturdays “is consistently too difficult to staff because of the quantity of games scheduled in our district each week.”
And that is probably true, but moving games up to Thursday at 6 p.m. may have been a better option, allowing the potential to move others to Saturday if that was needed.
▪ Been a minute since Providence Day has won a state championship, like since 2011, but this could be the year. State power Charlotte Christian doesn’t look quite like the dominant version of itself we’ve seen in recent years and the Chargers have firepower in all-state QB Cody Cater and a defense led by two national recruits in defensive linemen Kedrick Bingley-Jones and Jacolbe Cowan.
▪ Speaking of Christian, next Friday the Knights host Valor Christian of Highlands Ranch, Colo. Valor Christian is ranked No. 1 in the state of Colorado by MaxPreps. Last season, Valor Christian won Colorado 5A state title, the school’s eighth and the first for rookie coach Ed McCaffrey.
Ed McCaffrey’s son, Christian, is a star running back for the Carolina Panthers.
Valor Christian has won five of the past seven 5A state titles in Colorado.
Charlotte Christian, by the way, has a 22-game win streak.
↑Nick Reid, Pine Lake Prep: Freshman quarterback had three touchdown passes in his varsity debut, leading PLP to a 46-0 win over Quality Education Thursday.
↑Richmond Senior QB Caleb Hood: After leading his team to a 48-2 opening-night win over Clayton, Hood added a college offer from Duke. He holds one from North Carolina.
↑Chase defense: Five forced turnovers and several fourth-down holds in a 28-10 win over Bessemer City.
↑Providence rookie coach Wes Ward: Beat East Meck 9-0 on Friday to win his first game. QB Holland Stallings put the game away with a fourth-quarter keeper for a score.
Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers
Trent Simpson, Mallard Creek: Auburn commit at linebacker didn’t play much defense in Friday’s nationally televised game at Dutch Fork (SC), but Simpson ran for 182 yards, including an 81-yard scoring run. The game ended in a 27-27 tie with less than five minutes left due to weather.
Isaiah Bess, Shelby: Four touchdowns passes in a 41-13 win over Morganton Freedom.
Caleb Hood, Richmond Senior: Completed 7-of-12 passes for 199 yards and two scores in a 48-2 win over Clayton. He also picked up a scholarship offer from Duke.
Steven Montgomery, Alexander Central: Twenty-four carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-19 win over Lenoir Hibriten. Montgomery scored twice in the fourth quarter to help his team rally from a 19-14 deficit.
Russell Tabor, Charlotte Country Day: He had 209 yards passing and three touchdowns in a 43-21 win over Trinity-Byrnes. Teammates Quinten Cooper (11 carries, 113 yards rushing) and Stephen Payne (121 receiving yards, interception) also had big nights.
No. 4 Richmond Senior 48, Clayton 2: The Raiders led 31-2 in their season-opener and won easily. Clayton was playing under interim coach Robert Senseney after head coach Hunter Jenks resigned Tuesday.
Clayton managed 92 yards rushing and nine passing.
No. 9 Shelby 41, Morganton Freedom 13: Shelby outscored Freedom 14-0 in the first quarter and ran away. Quarterback Isaiah Bess thew four touchdowns, two each to Jahari Mitchell and Diavonni Daley.
Boiling Springs Crest 13, No. 12 Belmont South Point 7: Crest rallied from an early 7-0 deficit to pull off a season-opening upset. Crest ran up 295 yards of total offense, led by 131 yards passing from DJ Fuller and 101 yards rushing from Jalin Graham. Graham’s 13-yard run with 10:35 left was the difference. South Point’s Naseem Jones ran 34 times for 119 yards and a score.
Providence Day 17, Mountain Island Charter 0: The Chargers wrapped touchdown runs from quarterback Cody Cater and Nickel Fields around a 25-yard field goal to get the season-opening win. The Chargers’ defense shut out Mountain Island Charter and star running back Elijah Burris, who has committed to North Carolina.
Catawba Ridge 13, Carolina Pride 0: A new school in Fort Mill, Catawba Ridge got four catches for 76 yards and an interception from Quinton Jackson in the school’s first win.