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August 31, 2013CHARLOTTE - It was billed as the best matchup in North Carolina, two of the top 4A teams in the state facing off. Butler, defending 4AA champions, was visiting Mallard Creek for a chance at bragging rights and Charlotte football supremacy. A great crowd turned out for the game, and it was standing room only by the time the ball was kicked off. By the end of the night, the Mavericks were just too much for Butler and took a 20-7 win over the Bulldogs.
Butler won the coin toss to open the game, but it seemed like that was the only positive for the Bulldogs in the first half. Mallard Creek sacked Butler quarterback Anthony Ratliff twice on the opening drive, forcing Butler to punt, a position Butler was in for much of the first three quarters. Butler coach Brian Hales acknowledged the struggles his team faced on offense, but was optimistic about what he saw from the junior signal caller. "Ratliffe did a great job he was put in some tough positions, but he made good decisions, didn't throw the ball away, and got us moving there toward the end."
For most of the first quarter, it was speed matching speed as the two teams battled for field position. But, with the Mallard Creek defense swarming to the ball on every play, the Mavericks were able to control field position. Mallard Creek head coach Mike Palmieri relied on the running game for most of the night. "We've got a lot of them (running backs) we like to use them. We have a good O-line and great running backs."
Mallard Creek's Lawrence Pittman was speedy and elusive for the night, and it was Pittman who scored the first touchdown for Mallard Creek at the 1:53 mark of the first quarter. The senior running back finished with 152 yards on 18 carries. The PAT was no good, and the Mavericks took a 6-0 lead into the second quarter.
Jaylen Samuels moved the chains repeatedly for Mallard Creek, lining up at tight end, running back, and even taking snaps in the Wildcat. When the Mavericks needed big yardage, the NC State recruit delivered on multiple occasions, including getting the Mavericks into the red zone and setting up a 3 yard touchdown run for quarterback Emiere Scaife with less than a minute left in the second quarter. By halftime, Mallard Creek had held Butler to less than twenty yards of total offense and was sitting on a comfortable 13-0 lead.
The second half seemed to be a repeat of the first, with Pittman and Samuels pacing the Maverick offense, but Butler stiffened up its defense, stopping Mallard Creek on fourth down multiple times. Neither team scored in the third quarter, each team marred by penalty flags that halted drives. The third quarter ended with the Mavericks knocking on the door for another score, making it down to the Bulldog three yard line. Mallard Creek got their last score with a three yard leaping touchdown by Jaylen Samuels, taking a 20-0 lead two minutes into the fourth quarter. Samuels finished with 130 yards rushing for the evening.
Butler was finally able to get their offense moving in the fourth quarter using a hurry-up, no huddle approach. The Bulldogs got on the board when a ball ricocheted off one player into Clifton Duck's hands in the end zone. "It took a while to get going with our offense we hung in and hung in and found something that clicked for us. You need a game like this to find out who you are our guys can work like that. Maybe this (no huddle) is who we'll become," Butler coach Brian Hales commented after the game.
Butler recovered the onside kick, but was unable to take advantage after Mallard Creek linebacker Tony Reid intercepted a pass, allowing the Mavericks to run out the clock and secure the 20-7 victory. Mavericks coach Mike Palmieri was proud of his team's play. "I thought we played good. We played more physical tonight. They know what we're gonna do. We know what they're gonna do. I know we'll probably see them again and that'll be fun."
Even with the 20-7 defeat, Bulldog coach Hales was optimistic. "I'm excited about this team. They are hungry. In February, when we started offseason workouts, nobody knew who they were they needed to make a name for themselves. We needed to be tested Mallard Creek is good. I couldn't be more excited by my defense."
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