CORNELIUS, N.C. -- Mallard Creek's bid for a four-peat stays alive after the Mavericks held off a late run by Hough to cling to a 21-16 road victory in the opening round of the Class 4AA State Championships.

The three-time defending state champs scored on their opening possession, as quarterback Chauncey Caldwell threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Jones to put the Mavericks up, 7-0, following a made extra point by kicker Josh Silverstein.

Mallard Creek went on to take a 14-0 lead in the second quarter after running back Cameren Lowery punched in a 3-yard rush for a touchdown.

Hough came back from a 21-10 deficit to trail by just five points, late in the fourth quarter, after Huskies quarterback Jackson Gibbs completed a 3-yard pass to wide receiver Cameron Evans for a touchdown. However, Mallard Creek went on to recover the onside kick following the Hough touchdown to seal the deal for the Mavericks.

Mallard Creek will face Butler Friday, November 25. The Bulldogs routed McDowell to a 63-0 win Friday.