The Mallard Creek Mavericks smashed Greensboro Page Saturday 49-6 to become only the second Mecklenburg County Class 4A football team to win three straight state championships.
The Mavericks (14-2) scored on five of their first six possessions and forced six Page turnovers, including five in the first half. At one point in the second quarter, Mallard Creek scored three touchdowns in six plays.
The rout was on.
“We had some bumps in the road early in the year, but we got closer as brothers and teammates and that’s the result,” said senior linebacker Josh Brown, who will graduate early and leave for Florida State in January. “Ball is family and ball is a brotherhood, and we realized this was our last chance playing together. We couldn’t blow it.”
Mallard Creek is the fifth team in N.C. history to win three consecutive 4A championships. Independence won seven straight from 2000-06. Richmond Senior won three straight from 1988-90, Greensboro Page from 1983-85 and Wilson Fike from 1967-69.
Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri said his team -- which began the season ranked as high as No. 6 nationally -- never panicked all season, even after upset losses to Duncan Byrnes (S.C.) and MECKA conference rival Hough. Palmieri said he told his players to stick to the plan.
“You’re playing at Mallard Creek and everybody expects you to win by 50 points, and when you don’t people say it’s coaching or it’s the players not reaching their ability,” Palmieri said. “We had a plan. You’re not going to find out what your team is like until Week 8 or Week 9.
“We’re playing guys in positions to build depth through the year. We don’t care if we win a game 55-0. Been there, done that. If we wanted to, we could do what we did today and nobody gets reps and we win 49 to (6). But have a program and a plan.
“We knew once we got into our rhythm as a team that no one in the state could beat us. We weren’t worried about regular-season losses. We had a plan for the playoffs to play our best football and that’s what we did.”
That plan seems to be working.
Three years ago, Mallard Creek beat Wake Forest 59-21 in the state final. Last year’s 25-14 win against Wake Forest was more comfortable than it sounds. And Saturday’s 43-point win was the third largest margin since the N.C. High School Athletic Association went to the 4AA finals format in 2002. Independence beat New Bern 54-7 in 2003 and Butler beat Wake Forest-Rolesville 44-0 in 2010.
“This is a great way to start your life,” Brown said. “Leaving with three rings and leaving as a state champion. Man, there’s nothing better.”
QUOTE: “(Six) turnovers, 49 points. Do the math. You can’t play a middle school team and do that. ...It’s one of those things as a coach you don't see coming. I'm looking back and thinking, ‘Is there anything I could’ve done or said,’ but you don’t know how a team will respond that has little or no experience in situations and we didn’t respond well.” -- Page coach Kevin Gillespie
RECORDS: Mallard Creek 14-2; Greensboro Page 13-3
WORTH MENTIONING: Mallard Creek quarterback James Smith was named championship MVP after passing for 172 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 74 yards and a score. ...Team MVPs were also named (Mallard Creek defense: Theron Ingram; Mallard Creek offense: Chauncery Bowman; Page defense: Alan Tisdale; Page offense: Will Jones). ...Mallard Creek’s defense had seven sacks and allowed a state finals record negative 29 yards rushing. ...Mallard Creek led 42-0 at halftime, tying the finals record for points in a half set by Butler and Reidsville.