By Aaron Burns

CORNELIUS – Hough High coach Bobby Collins said one thing kept his team from winning Friday night against Mallard Creek High.

“We didn’t make the plays that gave us a chance to win,” Collins said after Hough’s 28-3 loss to Mallard Creek.

The Mavericks’ win gives Mallard Creek (10-1) its fourth straight I-MECK 4A conference championship. Hough (9-2) finished second in the league, the best result in school history.

The Huskies trailed 7-3 for much of the first half, but a Gary Gore touchdown run with 42 seconds left put Mallard Creek ahead 14-3.

Instead of running the clock out before halftime, Collins had quarterback Josh Stilley go to the air.

The strategy backfired. Stilley threw an interception and the Mavericks turned it into another Gore touchdown run with eight seconds left in the half.

“You can’t give an offense like Mallard Creek a short field,” Collins said. “That last (touchdown), I’m going to take (the blame for) that one.”

Hough’s offense struggled to move the ball in the second half. Another Stilley interception led to the Mavericks’ final score.

Collins said the loss, which dropped the Huskies’ record in I-MECK 4A play to 6-1, was a frustrating one.

There is light at the end of Hough’s tunnel, however.

“It’s the first time in three years that our kids are going to play in the playoffs and have a home game, so that’s our focus now,” Collins said. “(Mallard Creek is) a good football team, and I think it’s going to give us an opportunity as players and staff to go back, look at the film and fix the mistakes.”

Hough’s first-round opponent in the Class 4A state tournament will be revealed over the weekend.

“This is going to be a test of our team,” Collins said.

“We finished the season 9-2, we put ourselves in the position to play for the conference championship, but we didn’t make the big play.”