Mallard Creek will try Saturday to extend a streak in the N.C. High School Athletic Association football championships. Charlotte Catholic will try to end one.
Mallard Creek (13-2) will play Greensboro Page (13-2) at 12:05 p.m. N.C. State. The Mavericks, who were upset by Page in the 2011 semifinals, will try to win a third consecutive N.C. 4AA championship. Only one Mecklenburg County team has won three straight titles in the 4A class: Independence won seven from 2000-06.
Charlotte Catholic (14-0) won state titles in 2004 and ’05, but has lost in the championship round four times since. The Cougars fell 23-15 to New Bern in the 2014 final. Catholic will face Greenville Rose (12-2) at 8:05 p.m. Saturday at Winston-Salem’s BB&T Stadium.
Second-year Cougars coach Mike Brodowicz said his team is weary of just reaching to the final round.
“We have a good program,” he said. “But you’ve seen our kids. Our margin of error, besides when we had (former All-America running Elijah Hood), is small. We have to execute completely in all phases to close out against elite teams.
“If we turn the ball over and we don’t tackle well and don’t take advantage of when we have a big play opportunity, we get into trouble. We don’t get many chances and we have to succeed.”
Brodowicz said his team executed well in an 17-8 win at powerhouse Greensboro Dudley last week. He hopes that carries over to Saturday’s game.
“It’s so hard to get here,” Brodowicz said. “Do we want to win? Darn right. We’re more determined. That’s the difference between this team and this staff. It’s because we’ve gone back-to-back (to the finals).
“There’s a lot more determination to win it. We’ve lost four in a row after winning two in a row. Now our kids are more determined than ever to end that streak. Our kids are very focused.”
Mallard Creek senior running back Chauncery Bowman said his team is also determined.
“We’ve just got to get this win,” he said. “We’ve just have to. We’ve put so much into this since the summer and now we’re here. We’ve done too much work to lose now when we’re at the final step of our goal.”
While Catholic has run through the season undefeated with few serious challenges, Mallard Creek has had an up-and-down season despite returning the bulk of starters from last season’s state championship team.
Mallard Creek was upset by Byrnes (S.C.) and Hough and taken to the limit by Vance. The Mavericks needed an 86-yard drive to force overtime last week at East Forsyth and won after their defense forced a field goal in overtime. Quarterback James Smith later optioned to Bowman for the game-winning touchdown.
Mallard Creek’s schedule has included games against four nationally ranked teams and road playoff games at teams seeded No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 in the 4AA Western playoff bracket.
“These kids and these coaches put in a lot of work,” Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri said . “They’ve played the toughest schedule in the state by far, and it’s been a special season, by far, for us. People on the outside say, ‘Well you lost two games.’ But we played some great teams and beat some great teams.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You don’t put players on the field and people lay down for you. We get everybody’s ‘A’ game. But we’re right where we need to be. We’re healthy and this team is ready for Saturday.”
Palmieri said his team understands the history at stake.
“Every time we take the field, we feel we should win,” Palmieri said. “We don’t play for second place. We don’t put second place trophies in our trophy case. We look back and we did some great things as a team, but we want to win a state championship. You don’t get points for second. We want to win.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr