Mallard Creek High School has won the past three N.C. 4AA state championships. The Mavericks, heavy favorites to win a fourth straight, begin the season ranked No. 10 in MaxPreps’ early season national poll, but also have one of the nation’s most difficult schedules.
Mallard Creek will open the season at S.C. 2A state champion Dillon, then play on the road against three-time N.C. 4AA champ Butler, a perennial national power. The following week, Mallard Creek plays another perennial national power, Duncan Byrnes (SC).
After that, Mallard Creek has a bye week, before playing at S.C. 3A state champ South Pointe of Rock Hill (SC) on the road.
If you’re counting at home, that’s four weeks of football against two state champs and two national powers – and only one of them is at home.
“We like playing a tough schedule,” coach Mike Palmieri said. “We think it prepares us for the playoffs. (Win-loss) records don’t matter much to us over here. We’re just concerned about doing well in the playoffs and winning championships.”
Rock Hill’s Northwestern High is also ranked in the MaxPreps’ preseason poll. The Trojans won the S.C. 4A Division II state title last season.
In Charlotte, Mallard Creek will be aiming for history. Last season, the Mavericks drilled Greensboro Page 49-6 in the state final, becoming the fifth team in N.C. history to win three consecutive 4A championships. The Mavericks joined Greensboro Page, Greenville Rose, Richmond Senior and Wilson Fike among class 4A teams to win three straight.
But only Independence has gone beyond the 4A triple in the state’s largest class. The Patriots won seven straight class 4A or 4AA titles from 2000-06.
In their quest to become just the second large class 4A team to four-peat, Mallard Creek – which finished started at No. 6 and finished at No. 36 in MaxPreps poll last season – returns six offensive and six defensive starters, including an N.C. State commit (DT Grant Gibson), a South Carolina commit (OT Eric Douglas) and a North Carolina commit (WR/DB Ryan Jones). In all, Mallard Creek carries more than 20 Division I prospects.
That crew will attempt to push forward a program that has lost just nine games in eight years.
Mallard Creek 2016 HS Football Schedule
A19 at Dillon (SC), 7:30
A26 at Butler
S2 Byrnes (SC)
S15 at South Pointe (SC), 7:30 (Thursday night)
S23 West Charlotte
O7 at Hough
O21 at A.L. Brown
N4 at North Mecklenburg