High School Sports

Mallard Creek’s schedule tough, but even tougher playing on same nights as Carolina Panthers

Mallard Creek fans had big turnout for the third annual Patriotism Bowl against Charlotte Catholic last season. With the Carolina Panthers hosting Miami and New England on Mallard Creek’s first two playing dates in 2015, moving those big games to a different night might mean more fans will attend the high school games.
Mallard Creek fans had big turnout for the third annual Patriotism Bowl against Charlotte Catholic last season. With the Carolina Panthers hosting Miami and New England on Mallard Creek’s first two playing dates in 2015, moving those big games to a different night might mean more fans will attend the high school games. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Give Mallard Creek football coach Mike Palmieri credit for this: He makes sure his team is a fighting champion.

The Mavericks don’t duck anyone, annually playing some of the region’s top teams. Last season, Mallard Creek hooked up with three-time N.C. 4AA champion Butler, reigning private-school champion Charlotte Christian and N.C. 4A runner-up Charlotte Catholic in its first four games.

This year, Palmieri has scheduled even tougher. His nationally ranked team will face N.C. 4A powers Independence and Butler to open the season and then face S.C. 4A power Byrnes in Week 3. Each of those teams is a multiple state champion.

This is great for fans, but could be even better. On Saturday, Aug. 22, Mallard Creek is scheduled to play Independence at newly renovated Memorial Stadium. On Friday, Aug. 28, Mallard Creek is scheduled to play Butler at home.

The Carolina Panthers play their exhibition home opener Aug. 22 against the Dolphins. On Aug. 28, the Panthers welcome Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Patriots.

Many fans who might chose to go watch an excellent high school football game might go to Bank of America Stadium to watch the Panthers, or watch the game on TV. This will almost assuredly hurt what could be an enormous gate and a great experience for players from the high schools involved.

There’s an easy solution:

Move the games.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association allows teams to play on Thursday or Saturday. NCHSAA spokesperson Rick Strunk notes that in High Point, for example, Andrews High and Central High share a stadium. Each week, games there are played on Thursday and Friday.

Mallard Creek-Independence is part of a doubleheader at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 22, following the first-ever meeting between Myers Park and Charlotte Country Day, schools that are 3.1 miles apart.

For the past few years, the Mecklenburg County season-opening doubleheader has been held on Thursday to avoid the crush of Friday night season openers. A spokesperson for the company that put together the doubleheader said the contracts were signed months ago for the games, before the NFL had released its schedule. According to the spokesperson, it would be difficult with contracts and details involved to move the game to another day.

It might not be that hard. I think the schools would be flexible and Memorial Stadium officials told me the stadium is available for either Thursday, Aug. 20, or Friday, Aug. 21. Games are moved all the time around here for religious holidays and bad weather. Why not this?

And with Butler at Mallard Creek on Aug. 28, officials could push back to Saturday. Or move up to Thursday. Either date would ensure a bigger turnout -- and more money -- for the schools involved.

For his part, Palmieri is just ready to play -- doesn’t matter if it’s Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

“I’m hoping the crowds won’t be too affected,” he said of his team’s first two games going against Panthers’ home dates. “I don’t know how many people are going to show up. These are some really good games. But it doesn’t matter who is in the stands. We should be fine. This is important.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr

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