High School Sports

Mallard Creek 35, North Meck 23: Last-minute blunders give Vikings hope

Mallard Creek wrapped up its regular season season Friday night with a win over MECKA 4A football rival North Mecklenburg that was pretty rough around the edges.

“We didn’t play a four-quarter football game. We’ve got to play better and coach better and get everything tightened up,” Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri said after his team survived its own slow start and a big finish by the Vikings to come away with a 35-23 victory at Mallard Creek.

Quarterback James Smith ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, and the Mavericks defense forced four North Meck turnovers, including a 55-yard return of a recovered fumble for a touchdown by senior defensive back Cravont Charleston on the last play of the first half.

But the Vikings, down 35-10 going into the fourth quarter, scored two touchdowns in the last four minutes with the help of a recovered onside kick. And Mallard Creek had to work a little harder for its third straight win since a 31-28 over time loss to Hough, which cost the Mavericks the conference title.

Running back Emmanuel Wilson ended a long drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:42 to play, and after recovering an onside kick, the Vikings were in the end zone again 30 seconds later on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Kendall Coles to Kevin Buford Jr.

But the Mavericks managed to run out the clock after trading lost fumbles with North Meck in a wild last minute-and-a-half.

“That’s what they do,” Palmieri said of North Meck. “We got lulled to sleep a little bit with a big lead. They have some good players and made some big plays, and all of a sudden we’re in a battle.”

Charleston’s big fumble return on a botched field goal attempt by the Vikings gave Mallard Creek a 28-3 halftime lead.

Quote: “Winning the conference championship was one of our goals, and we didn’t get it done. But the state championship is always our ultimate goal, and as long as that’s still in front of us, we’re comfortable with where we’re at. It doesn’t matter where or who we play.” – Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri.

Records: North Meck 7-4, 3-3 MECKA 4A Mallard Creek 9-2, 5-1.

Worth mentioning: Even though North Meck made it interesting late, Mallard Creek’s defense was dominant for most of the game. The Mavericks held the Vikings to under 20 yards total offense until late in the first half. On one North Meck three-and-out series late in the third quarter, senior linebacker Josh Brown made all three tackles for losses of 4, 5 and 5 yards.

What’s Next: North Meck awaits today’s announcement of pairings to determine its playoff fate. Mallard Creek will host a first-round game at 7:30 p.m. Friday against an opponent to be announced today.