|High school football is raring to go|
|Everyone’s got aspirations – and a chance|
|Published Wednesday, August 20, 2014 11:34 am|
|Mallard Creek High defensive end Josh Brown is part of a Mavericks defense that is looking to duplicate last season’s dominant performance on the way to the N.C. 4AA championship. Mallard Creek opens against Charlotte Christian on Aug. 21 at Memorial Stadium.|
Who’ll be the best team in North Carolina’s high school epicenter?
Mallard Creek High, the 2013 4AA state champion, has the swagger and talent to make another run in 2014. After wrapping up the preseason last week with a 13-7 comeback win against 4A runner-up Scotland, the Mavericks have the right attitude.
“We like it,” Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said. “We know we’re going to get everybody’s best, so we just have to prepare a little better.”
Quarterback James Smith, who led the Mavericks to the championship as a sophomore, is the entrenched leader.
“I have the same confidence,” he said. “I know my team is going to rock with me and I know I’m going to rock with them 100 percent.”
Palmieri is convinced that Smith’s maturity and leadership will take Mallard Creek far into the postseason.
“He’s the guy we’re counting on,” Palmieri said.
Although Mallard Creek graduated a stellar senior class, there’s an ample supply of weapons on offense, like running back Cam Stover and receiver Vernon Grier.
Defensively, Mallard Creek is stout. The Mavericks shut down Scotland after allowing a scrimmage-opening 70-yard, 10-play scoring drive. Mallard Creek neutralized the Scots’ passing attack after the first drive as well as forcing a turnover that resulted in a Mavericks touchdown.
Jacob O’Connor and John Neal anchor Mallard Creek’s linebacker corps, while Josh Brown is the top pass-rushing defensive end. Amari Henderson and Nafees Lyon anchor the secondary.
“We’ve got players,” Palmieri said. “We’re not worried about one series or one play in the game. We’re going to play 48 minutes and we’ve always been that way. We’ve got to respond, and we’ve been able to do that.”
The first opportunity to make a statement is Thursday against Charlotte Christian at Memorial Stadium. Smith is looking forward to it.
“It’s definitely one game at a time, but I expect to come out (with) high intensity,” he said. “We don’t back down from nobody.…We’re going to bring it all.”
|Herbert L. White previews Mecklenburg County high school football|
Here are a few other things to look for this season:
Can anyone in Mecklenburg County stop Mallard Creek? Butler is a contender with a recent history of championship experience. Independence could be a dark horse under second-year coach Joe Evans, as is Rocky River.
New coaches in high-profile programs. There’s West Charlotte’s Mo Collins and Charlotte Catholic’s Michael Brodowicz, albeit in different situations. Collins is taking over a program that’s known nothing but turnover in the last decade.
The eight-win team of 2010 – West Charlotte’s last plus-.500 campaign – would look very good on Senior Drive right now, but one victory would top last season’s total.
The Lions open at home on Friday against Butler.
Brodowicz succeeds the legendary Jim Oddo, who retired after 40 seasons. The Cougars always have high expectations, so Brodowicz needs to produce immediately to stay on top of the SoMeck standings.
An honorable mention goes to Hough’s Miles Aldridge, who takes over for Bobby Collins. Speaking of Hough…
The Huskies’ Mallard Creek challenge. Hough looked like it would have a major say in the MeCKa race before losing to the Mavericks, followed by a first-round playoff loss to Independence. The Huskies have several Division I prospects, led by defensive back Mark Fields II.
Gathering Moss: One of the highest profile hires over the offseason was an assistant coach. Former NFL All-Pro receiver Randy Moss is at Victory Christian as associate head coach. Moss, who played for Minnesota, Oakland, New England and San Francisco, hasn’t talked to media since coming to Charlotte, but Kings coach Dee Brown, a former Carolina Panther, is excited.
“Not every day is there someone of that caliber and of that prowess joining your staff,” he said. “He’s a great addition who put a lot of hard work into his own dream.
“Our team had about 30 seconds of being star struck, and after that he’s just been Coach Moss.”
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