Thursday’s Mallard Creek at Scotland County high school football season opener was one of the most anticipated match-ups of the entire 2017 season. Neither team really wanted to play the game, but high school fans got treated to several weeks of build-up for the showdown. And the game didn’t disappoint.
Mallard Creek was ranked No. 3 in the N.C. Preps and Carolina Preps preseason polls. Scotland was No. 2.
The Mavericks, who returned just one starter on offense, appeared to serve notice to North Carolina that maybe a three-loss season in 2016 was a fluke, as they went to Scotland County and won 28-21.
A defensive stop in the fourth quarter, followed by a Cam Lowery touchdown run late sealed the win that saw Scotland County stopped at least three times inside Mallard Creek’s 20, twice on downs and once by fumble. Lowery’s run gave Mallard Creek a 28-14 lead with less than three minutes left.
Mallard Creek was debuting a new quarterback and 17 new starters, facing a Scotland team that returned 13 starters from a 14-1 N.C. 4A state semifinalist. The Fightin’ Scots also featured Zamir White, the nation’s No. 1 recruit at running back who has committed to Georgia.
In the game, Mallard Creek was poised and didn’t suffer the triple-digit penalty yards that plagued the team throughout 2016.
A look back:
▪ By 6:30, Scotland’s Pate Stadium was beginning to fill up with fans ready to watch two of North Carolina’s best battle it out.
After Scotland County received the toss, Mallard Creek got a quick interception that led to a 40-yard touchdown pass for the Mavericks and an early 7-0 lead (video hat tip @pepmancv)
Interest in the game ran wide and even attracted former Mallard Creek state champion Thaddeus Moss, now playing at LSU.
Mallard Creek’s defense stopped Scotland County on downs in the red zone on the Fightin’ Scots first two possessions, despite several big runs by Georgia recruit Zamir “Zeus” White. That gave the Mavericks’ offense some early opportunities.
First-year varsity quarterback Jadyn Washington, who led the Mavericks junior varsity to an unbeaten season in 2016, got off to a good start. He threw the touchdown pass on his first drive, and added a pretty 37-yard non-scoring pass on his third.
Later in the second quarter, he got the Mavs out of a hole with a perfect deep ball.
He also drew some praise.
And just before halftime, Washington threw a 20-yard fade to Lovelle Washington for his second scoring pass of the first half, giving his team a 21-0 lead (video per @rivalsfriedman)
Of course, Zamir White, the Georgia recruit from Scotland who is ranked No. 1 nationally at his position, drew praise, too. He ran for nearly 100 yards in the first quarter.
Mallard Creek looked a lot more cohesive and together, particularly in the first half. Playing in a hostile environment, in front of the type crowd you’d get at a regional or state championship game, the Mavericks just played businesslike football.
In the third quarter, the Mavericks defense gave up a long drive but forced a fumble at its 1. After recovering, Mallard Creek burned some clock and punted. That’s when White struck for a 65-yard pass reception and score to close the Mallard Creek lead to 21-7.
And a few possessions later, White went 89 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-14 early in the fourth.
After Mallard Creek got a drive going in response, two big defensive plays stopped the drive and Scotland got the ball near its 20 with about six minutes to play. Scotland converted one fourth down at its 29 in the series with five minutes left, but turned the ball over after failing to convert on a second.
That put the game away for Mallard Creek. White would score another touchdown, on a 36-yard pass reception, with 28 seconds left, but an onside kick attempted failed.