Mallard Creek’s offense never quite clicked Saturday night against one of the two teams that handed the Mavericks their only losses last season.
So the Mavericks, No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, leaned on their defense until Mallard Creek wore down the visiting Byrnes Rebels of Duncan, S.C. 21-14 in a cross-border battle of perennial state championship contenders.
The Mavericks appeared on several occasions to be poised to take permanent control of this defensive battle, the last time when senior linebacker Larry Matkins scored a touchdown on a 25-yard interception return with 2 minutes to play in the third quarter for a 21-7 lead.
But the Rebels never went away and Mallard Creek spent much of the evening unable to get out of its own way, racking up 11 penalties for 102 yards.
Byrnes closed the gap to 21-14 on quarterback Brock Carroll’s 7-yard touchdown pass to running back Quez Mayes with 8 minutes, 3 seconds to play after the Rebels’ defense had stifled a fake punt attempt by the Mavericks.
But Byrnes would run only five more plays and Mallard Creek’s offense, which sputtered much of the game, put together enough offense to run out the clock.
“We made big plays when we had to,” Mavericks coach Miek Palmieri said. “We like to run the football in the fourth quarter and we were finally able to get up and down the field a little bit and win the game.”
The Mavericks took a 14-0 lead in the first half on touchdown runs of 18 yards by quarterback Chauncey Caldwell and 15 by Joel Gilmore. But Byrnes trimmed the lead of 14-7 at halftime with a second-quarter touchdown pass of 17 yards from Carroll to Demarcus Gregory.
Worth mentioning: Mallard Creek running back Darnell Walker didn’t get in the end zone but his 141 yards on 23 carries did a lot for the Mavericks ball control efforts.
Records: Byrnes 2-1; Mallard Creek 3-0
Quote: “We hurt ourselves with the penalties tonight. — we could have scored 35 or 42 points. We have to learn to play between the whistles. We’ve got to work on that, but there’s a lot we’ve got to work on.” — Palmieri
What’s next: Byrnes visits Northwestern Friday at 7:30 p.m. Mallard Creek, which has a bye this week, is at Rock Hill South Pointe on Friday, Sept. 16.