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.
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.