In keeping with their nickname, the Mallard Creek Mavericks have had quite a wild ride in their short football history.
The school is three years old, one of many high schools that have been built over the last decade of growth in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. And like most first-year football programs, the Mavericks struggled in their inaugural season, going 1-10 with a team made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores.
Mallard Creek appeared headed for a dramatic turnaround last fall, winning nine of its first 10 games before having to forfeit all of those victories because of an ineligible player.
But this fall the Mavericks have picked up where they should have left off last year. They’ll take a 10-1 record into Friday’s second-round Class 4AA playoff game against Independence. It will be a rematch against the only team which has beaten them this season — Mallard Creek lost a 42-41 overtime heartbreaker on Aug. 28.
Mallard Creek’s wins have followed a familar script this year. A big, experienced defensive line line totally shuts down the other team’s running game. The offensive line creates space for the team’s most dangerous player to wreak havoc.
The loose Maverick is junior quarterback Marquise Williams. He has a strong, if sometimes erratic passing arm. But he is an absolutely electrifying runner. “When they need a big play, he’ll make it,” said Hopewell coach Chris Rust, whose team lost 28-7 to Mallard Creek on Friday night in a first-round playoff game. “Tonight he just took control of the game.”
I’ve talked with Williams several times over his career and he’s a confident young man, but not in an obnoxious way. He’s simply aware of the truth — you’re not going to stop him for long. On Friday night, he broke the back of the Titans with several big runs on third or fourth down.
“That’s what he does, and we don’t expect him to stop now,” said Coach Mike Palmieri, an outgoing Floridian who’s been the coach since the beginning.
ACC and SEC programs are looking at Williams as a prospect. He says he wants to play quarterback and one wonders whether his helter-skelter game can be molded to fit a big-time offensive scheme.
But then I also wondered years ago whether an 18-year-old basketball player I’d just interviewed name Tracy McGrady would really skip college to go straight to the NBA.
So we’ll just have to wait and see.