Prep Insider Blog

No. 1 Mallard Creek uses defense to shut door on Mooresville upset attempt

Mallard Creek’s starters did something Friday night that they haven’t been able to do in several weeks — play four quarters of football.

Tested by a Mooresville defense that stubbornly refused to give up many big plays, the Mavericks used their starters for most of the 48 minutes and grounded out a 24-7 victory.

It gave the Observer’s top-ranked team a 10-0-1 regular-season record and a sweep of the Mavericks’ seven I-Meck 4A games.

“We knew we’d get a tough game from them,” Mallard Creek head coach Mike Palmieri said of the Blue Devils (6-5, 4-3). “They play hard, and it was just what we needed.

“It was good for us to have to play four quarters. We’ll need that in the playoffs.”

Mallard Creek has coasted to lopsided victories since being tested two months ago by Vance.

But Friday night, the Mavericks were held to a field goal for most of the first half and trailed 7-3 after Malik Birchett blocked a Mallard Creek punt and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown with 1:31 left in the first half.

But Mallard Creek scored on its next three possessions — once in the final minute of the first half and on its first two possessions of the third quarter.

Mavericks’ quarterback Dustin Noller completed four passes, and Trent Simpson ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 19 seconds left in the half. That gave Mallard Creek a 10-7 lead at intermission.

Simpson and Noller each scored on short runs early in the third quarter, and that was all the Mavericks needed — especially on a night when their defense was in complete control.

Mooresville was held to 73 yards total offense and had only two first downs until the closing minutes of the game.

“Our defense has been getting a bit stronger every week,” Palmieri said. “They continue to develop, and that’s making us stronger.”

Three who mattered

Trent Simpson, Mallard Creek: The Mavericks’ two-way standout accounted for 70 yards of offense and ran for two touchdowns. But he really made his mark on defense. Simpson had three sacks and batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

Dustin Noller, Mallard Creek: Noller had another big outing, completing 24-of-34 passes for 287 yards.

Ryan Jackson, Mooresville: Jackson led the Blue Devils’ gritty defensive performance. He had two sacks and two tackles for losses.

Worth mentioning

The play of the game was Malik Birchett’s blocked punt and return for a touchdown. He tipped the ball and caught it in mid-air, then took off for the end zone. Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said the ball was snapped early, and the Mavericks’ punter wasn’t ready. “He made a big play there,” Palmieri said of Birchett.

Mooresville quarterback Hunter Deberardino was under pressure all night. He was sacked four times and had the ball snapped over his head twice in the first half.

Nice touch before the game. Mallard Creek’s captains presented a plaque to Mooresville’s captains, in memory of Gavin Sharpe, the 15-year-old Blue Devil player who died Aug. 5 after falling from a truck during a community service project at the school. Mooresville’s motto this season has been “Gavinstrong.”

The Mallard Creek-Mooresville rivalry hasn’t gone well for the Blue Devils. Entering Friday’s game, they were 0-6 against the Mavericks and had been outscored 277-42.

They said it

“This team remains patient. They weren’t frustrated or worried at halftime. They just put that behind them and move on.” — Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri.

What’s next?

Mallard Creek, which reached the 4AA state title game in 2017, is likely to have a first-round playoff bye next week. The Mavericks, who will be one of the top seeds in the West, will open play at home on Nov. 22. Mooresville, likely to be in the 4A playoff bracket, opens play next Friday. The playoff schedule will be announced Saturday.

Mallard Creek 0 10 14 0 — 24

Mooresville 0 7 0 0 — 7

MC — FG Seth Howell 35

MRSV — Malik Birchett 52 return of blocked punt (Isaac Riffe kick)

MC — Trent Simpson 3 run (Howell kick)

MC — Simpson 1 run (Howell kick)

MC — Dustin Noller 3 run (Howell kick)