Growing up in Durham, Chauncey Caldwell said he often heard about Mallard Creek High and Mecklenburg County football, which has dominated the state’s largest classification the past 15 years.
Mallard Creek or Butler have won six of the past seven 4AA state championships.
Said Caldwell, Durham Hillside’s quarterback last season: “Not to say in Durham there aren’t any great athletes, because there are, but you hear so much about Charlotte. And honestly, it was better than I thought.”
Caldwell should know. He and his family moved to Charlotte in the spring, enrolling him at Mallard Creek, where the Mavericks have won three consecutive 4AA state championships. He was named the starting quarterback.
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Last season, Caldwell threw for more than 2,500 yards and 32 touchdowns at Hillside. The Hornets were 10-3 and Caldwell rushed for 428 yards and seven touchdowns. But shortly after the season, he decided he wanted a change. He said he felt Mallard Creek would be the best place for him.
Caldwell said one morning after the season he walked into the kitchen and asked his mother about possibly moving to Charlotte. He didn’t expect her to say yes. But Danielle and his father, Charles, found jobs in Charlotte and the family moved last spring. Caldwell bonded with future Mavericks teammates before the 2015-16 school year ended at Mallard Creek.
“I was surprised, but not really because my parents do a lot for me and they want to make sure I have opportunities they didn’t,” Caldwell said of the family leaving Durham.
Mallard Creek athletics director Phil Davanzo says Caldwell is “a beautiful kid.” He’s also extremely polite, saying “yes sir” when talking to adults. He speaks often of his faith, and admits it took some to become Mallard Creek’s quarterback.
In nine seasons, the Mavericks have had four quarterbacks. One of them, Marquise Williams, was an All-ACC star at North Carolina and is now a rookie with the Green Bay Packers. Another, James Smith, led Mallard Creek to three straight state championships. He’s a freshman at Eastern Kentucky.
“I don’t really feel any pressure taking over as quarterback here,” Caldwell said, “because God is with me through it all. I can do all things through Christ and I’m ready to try to bring a fourth straight state title here.”
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, Caldwell also has a strong arm. In a scrimmage with Fort Mill’s Nation Ford Wednesday morning, he often played with Mallard Creek’s reserve linemen and receivers, but he completed his first six passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns. He finished 15-for-17 for 215 yards and three touchdowns before the teams heavily substituted.
“Chauncey is doing great for us,” Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri said. “We expect great things. He’s got a great arm and runs real well. It’s taken him some time to learn our system and the way we do things. It’s funny because (Caldwell’s family) just moved in. We were planning on putting (Colorado State-bound linebacker) Larry Matkins at QB and all of sudden he just pops in.”
Caldwell said he hoping for a memorable season.
“I’m ready and excited,” he said. “I really can’t wait to get started.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr