The first Friday of football left most fans with their jaws dropped. And rightfully so.
Three defending state champions, including one squad in the POWERADE FAB 50 and another with the nation's longest current win streak, fell victim to defeat, making it clear that the 2011 campaign will be a memorable one.
One of the nation's biggest showdowns took place in Charlotte, with top-ranked Butler (No. 8 in the POWERADE FAB 50...for now) traveling to Mallard Creek. And star power was heavy in Mallard Creek's 28-20 upset of Butler.The reigning 4AA champs boast a strong junior trio in QB Riley Ferguson, WR Uriah LeMay and LB Peter Kalambayi while Mallard Creek feature OL D.J. Humphries (No. 7 in the ESPNU 150), RB Jela Duncan and WR Jamel Harbison.
Mallard Creek jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but Butler surged late to pull within one at 21-20. Ultimately, the Mavericks sealed the victory with a lateral TD pass from Harbison to Marquez North. Duncan led the way with 217 rushing yards and a score, benefiting from the gaping holes created by Humphries along the offensive line.
In the Charlotte Observer article, Butler first-year coach Brian Hales jokingly asked, "Who starts their coaching career playing in a state championship game?" And when I caught up with Hales on Sunday, he talked about the positives drawn from a contest dripping with title-game potential.
"Absolutely, it's the best way to start a season, against the toughest team you can play," said Hales, whose team saw its 31-game win streak snapped. "It gives us an early indication of what we need to get better at if we want to beat a team of that caliber down the line."
"From an offensive perspective, we need to settle down a little, and even myself with my playcalling, I think I tried too many different things," Hales continued. "Part of it is not being used to playing against [Mallard Creek], because they lined up in some formations we hadn't seen before.
"They also committed to running the ball and that made it difficult. We only got the ball three times in the second half, and we scored on two of those three possessions."
While Hales admitted that he and his players were disappointed by the loss, he understands all is not lost in the season-opening result.
"Neither team played at the level we'll play in November and December, and a lot can happen until then," he said. "The key is coming out Monday, looking at film as a team and get ready for Olympic on Friday."
In other rankings-shattering results:
-West Rowan and its 46-game win streak (longest in the nation) went down to Mooresville on Friday. The Falcons blew a 14-0 lead before falling, 21-14. What's equally shocking is that in the past six meetings between these two teams, West Rowan had only allowed one touchdown.
-Defending 4A champ Hillside struggled in a 27-19 loss to New Bern. The outcome, powered by Jacquin Watkins' 149 rushing yards, helped the Bears avenge last year's loss to Hillside in the 4A semifinals. Hornets RB Khris Francis had 164 yards in the losing effort.
-Green Hope snapped a 38-game losing streak with, ironically,a 38-0 win against Smithfield-Selma in Kwame Dixon's first game at the helm for the Falcons.
Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.