No. 1-ranked Mallard Creek and No. 2-ranked Butler produced the game that you’d expect from the state’s top 4A powerhouses Friday night.
The visiting Bulldogs used a stifling defense to take a halftime lead, but Mallard Creek took advantage of a break on the second-half kickoff and a dominating offensive line led a surge that resulted in a 24-10 home victory in the latest installment of the Mecklenburg County nonconference rivalry.
Running back Chauncery Bowman rushed for 241 yards and two touchdowns – of 53 and 47 yards – on 28 carries for Mallard Creek. But those were about the only spectacular numbers in a victory that was more about grinding it out.
Butler did it best in the early stages of the game, taking a 7-0 lead to halftime on running back Benjamin Lemay’s 33-yard touchdown run just over three minutes into the game. Lemay rushed for 105 yards on 18 carries.
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The Bulldogs had an opportunity to pad that lead midway through the second quarter, but turned the ball over on downs at the Mallard Creek 5 after a promising drive.
“We fought and fought, and had some chances but the bottom line is we just couldn’t get it done,” Butler coach Brian Hales said. “But I think we saw the kind of team that we can be.”
The Mavericks got the game-turning break on the second-half kickoff when senior Devin Mines stripped the ball from a Bulldogs’ player – a play in which Hales said his kick returner had signaled for a fair catch.
Quarterback James Smith scored on a 3-yard keeper two plays later. The Mavericks went ahead for good at 14-7 on their next possession on Bowman’s 53-yard scoring run.
The teams traded fourth-quarter field goals before Bowman’s 47-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds to play sewed up the win.
Quote: “We’re still trying to find an identity with this team. We know we can depend on our offensive line and our defense. We came in expecting that we would get a 48-minute game from a good opponent and we did.” – Mallard Creek head coach Mike Palmieri
Records: Butler 1-1, Mallard Creek 2-0
Worth mentioning: The Mavericks had the rare experience of being shut out for a half. Butler limited Mallard Creek to 159 yards of offense in the first half, just 10 passing … Butler running back Lemay came up limping after a big 42-yard run late in the game, but was back in the lineup by the game’s end … Mallard Creek now has a 5-3 lead in the all-time series between the two schools.
What’s Next: Western Alamance is at Butler at 7 on Friday; Mallard Creek is at Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes at 7:30 p.m.