High School Sports

Friday night observations: Mallard Creek gets battle it wanted; upsets all over

Mallard Creek football coach Mike Palmieri, right, and the Mavericks will play at Butler next Friday night. Mallard Creek is No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll. Butler is No. 3.
Mallard Creek football coach Mike Palmieri, right, and the Mavericks will play at Butler next Friday night. Mallard Creek is No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll. Butler is No. 3. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The opening week of high school football, so far, has been about upsets.

Thursday night, Kannapolis Brown upset Sweet 16 No. 6 Concord in the annual “Battle of the Bell” game.

Friday night, the upsets continued. Five more Sweet 16 teams went down, Belmont South Point ended Crest’s 32-game win streak, and No. 1 Mallard Creek found itself on the ropes at reigning S.C. 2A champion Dillon. Dillon had a 37-game win streak and had lost just twice at home since 2009, once to Mallard Creek -- 27-21 in August 2013.

And things weren’t going well for Mallard Creek Friday. The Mavericks’ offense, with new quarterback Chauncey Caldwell, wasn’t clicking and the penalties were adding up, often extending Dillon drives.

It was exactly what Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri wanted -- a big early-season test.

Mallard Creek scored with about four minutes left in the first half and led 7-0 at halftime. Dillon had a 40-yard catch by Johnny Allen called back because of an illegal shift. In the second half, after a Dillon field goal, Mallard Creek won the game by getting four defensive stops inside its 10-yard line.

On several of those drives, penalties extended Dillon drives. Chris Hughes of CarolinaPreps, which tracks N.C. high school football closely, tweeted -- repeatedly -- that it seemed Mallard Creek wasn’t going to get any calls.

“We had four goal-line stands,” Palmieri said. “There were some big fourth downs and we made some stops. That’s what we came here for, to put our kids in the most uncomfortable situation you can find, and it worked out perfectly for us. It was a million penalties to none, but that’s part of the game. We knew coming in we wouldn’t get calls and we didn’t. We’re on the road. They’ve won 37 straight games and it’s something special for us. It helps us get ready.

“Last year, we beat Independence 58-6 (to start the season) and we weren’t a very good football team after that. This kind of game shows us where we need to get better, where our weaknesses are. I’d rather play this type of game every year. And that’s what we’ll do.”

Next up for the Mavericks? On the road next Friday at N.C. 4AA power Butler, which beat Olympic 55-7 in its opener.

Quick Takes

▪ Concord First Assembly scored with 40 seconds left to beat Metrolina Christian 34-32. ...East Lincoln coach Mike Byus won his 200th career game against Hunter Huss, and Hickory Ridge’s Jason Siedel, a former Berry High offensive coordinator, got his first win as a head coach. Hickory Ridge beat Piedmont 14-0.

▪ Independence’s first game under interim coach Hal Brown was delayed 90 minutes because of the weather. The Patriots were playing in Irmo against S.C. power Dutch Fork, coached by former Independence coach Tom Knotts. Knotts and company won easily, 45-0. Independence has lost three of its past four games and plays at N.C. 4A power Scotland County next week. The Fightin’ Scots won 42-13 at Independence last season.

▪ Union County teams went 1-6 against out-of-county competition Friday. That included Ardrey Kell’s huge rally against Weddington.

▪ East Mecklenburg reportedly tied a school-record for points in a 63-20 win against Berry. East was 6-6 last season under coach Barry Shuford and returns 13 starters, including junior running back Khamal Howard, who was the Southwestern 4A Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, a pretty big feat for a young player in what’s annually one of the state’s toughest conferences. East is a team to watch this season.

▪ First-year West Mecklenburg coach Jarvis Davis should have his players’ attention after Friday’s 41-34 overtime loss to Sweet 16 power Vance. West Meck was up two scores in the fourth quarter and on the verge of a huge upset. The Hawks returned 13 starters and might have a star in quarterback Richard Lattimer, who had more than 300 yards total offense.

▪ UNC recruit Jake Lawler, a defensive end for South Mecklenburg, missed Friday’s 27-21 win over Marvin Ridge with a dislocated finger in his hand. He had minor surgery and is expected back for the Sabres’ second game Friday against East Mecklenburg.

▪ Davidson Day junior quarterback Sam Hartman has had a rough season so far. He needed thyroid surgery three weeks ago after developing a mass near his throat and having trouble eating. He dropped 21 pounds in two weeks, falling to 149 pounds from 170. Davidson Day coach Chad Grier said Hartman weighed 160 pounds Thursday. Despite that, he threw for 470 yards and two touchdowns in Friday’s loss at 3A public school Asheville Erwin. Howell’s passing yardage was 15th best in Mecklenburg County history. Receiver Nolan Groulx had 270 yards receiving, which ranks sixth in county history.

“(Sam) hadn’t thrown a football in a month until practice this week,” Grier said. “It’s truly remarkable he played at all. He took some big hits and bounced up. He didn’t have the same velocity he normally has, but he was big for us tonight.”

Friday’s Top Performers

Davis Cheek, Butler quarterback: 7-for-10 for 156 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-7 win over Olympic.

Austin Colonna, Caleb Deveaux, Marvin Ridge: 27 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-21 loss to South Meck for Deveaux. Colonna completed 22-of-37 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown.

Canaan Cox, Tavi Linney, Sharod Phelps, Statesville Christian: Cox had four carries for 134 yards and three scores; Linney had nine carries for 110 yards and four scores; and Phelps had four carries for 127 yards and a score in a 72-0 win over Christ The King. Christ The King was playing its first varsity game.

Kingsley Ifedi, Vance: 27-of-41 passing for 343 yards and six touchdowns in a 41-34 come-from-behind win over West Meck. He ran 16 times for 152 yards.

Kendric Ivey, Cuthbertson: He ran eight times for 95 yards and two touchdowns and had a 81-yard kick return for a score in an easy win over Victory Christian.

Deon Kendrick, Voshon St. Hill, Rock Hill South Pointe: In a 30-23 upset of nationally ranked Rock Hill Northwestern, St. Hill rushed 16 times for 130 yards and Kendrick ran 23 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. St. Hill also caught three passes for 27 yards.

Richard Latimer, West Mecklenburg: Completed 10 of 17 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns against Vance. He ran 15 times for 62 yards and a score.

Travis Prince, South Mecklenburg: Had 19 carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns in win over Marvin Ridge.