Thursday night, North Carolina and South Carolina met in Charlotte in a football game between two of the Carolinas’ most recognizable universities.
Friday night in Duncan, S.C., two of the Carolinas’ most recognizable high school football programs will play.
Mallard Creek (2-0) of Charlotte will visit Byrnes (2-0) in a clash of nationally ranked teams. Mallard Creek, which has won the past two N.C. 4AA championships, is ranked as high as No. 7 in national polls. Byrnes, which has won 11 S.C. state titles and eight since 2002, is ranked as high as No. 48.
“Our kids love playing in games like this,” Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said. “You love coaching in them. It makes you really prepare and brings out the best in the kids and coaches when you have great competition and play great programs.”
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The teams have a two-year agreement and will play at Mallard Creek in September 2016.
Led by second-year coach Brian Lane, Byrnes is 14-3 against out-of-state teams and has beaten national powerhouses such as Glades Central (Fla.), Dr. Phillips (Fla.) and Moeller (Ohio).
Lane watched his team lose to national power De La Salle (Calif.) last season and said the Mavericks – playing just their eighth season of football – are more athletic than the California powerhouse was.
“De La Salle,” Lane told the Spartanburg Herald, “was very impressive offensively because everything was downhill off the ball. But the players (Mallard Creek) has on defense are unreal, and they have double the athletes on offense.
“De La Salle has a lot of tradition in their program, and Mallard Creek is trying to build theirs. This will be one of their staple games.”
Byrnes and Lane intend to make it difficult. The Rebels beat S.C. power Rock Hill Northwestern 40-31 in their opener and won 42-21 at T.L. Hanna last week. Senior quarterback Micah Young had 262 yards and five touchdowns last week, hooking up with receiver A.J. Earnhardt seven times for 129 yards and three scores.
Most of the Rebels grow up in an intense farm system in Duncan, which is just outside Spartanburg. It’s something Hough High coach Miles Aldridge saw up close and personal while coaching at Columbia’s Spring Valley High.
“They’re an outstanding program with great tradition,” Aldridge said. “The community is super supportive. The little league programs do a tremendous job. They call themselves the ‘Little Rebels’ and they’re little Rebels when they’re 8 to 10 years old.
“I think Mallard Creek is super talented. They’ve got talent everywhere. Byrnes will be a traditional program, will be built from the ground up. It’ll be a very interesting game. I would love to see it.”
Mallard Creek beat Independence 58-6 to start the season and stopped rival Butler 24-10 at home last week. Palmieri admits this will be one of the school’s highest profile regular-season games, matching several against Butler and Independence in past years.
“It’s a big game, yes, but it’s the next game,” he said. “We don’t prepare any different for this game. Every game is a statement game. Our kids understand every time they take the field they have to perform at a high level.
“But you start putting too much pressure on this one week – it’s a long season – and you can wear kids out mentally.”
Palmieri said he didn’t want to schedule three powerhouse teams in consecutive weeks, but he does like how this run could get his team prepared for the playoffs – particularly playing this out-of-state game in a hostile environment.
“They’ve got great size, athletes all over the field,” Palmieri said. “They’ve got a great team. It’s going to be a test. They’re well coached. We have a lot of respect for our opponent.
“It should be a great experience for our kids and our coaching staff to try to step up to this challenge.”
Langston Wertz Jr: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr