CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The 2017 version isn't the most star-studded Mallard Creek team but the Mavs are back in the state title game after missing out last season and ending their three-year streak as champs.

“A lot of people ask us how we get the job done,” said senior linebacker Keeshon Martin. “We're a family. Play as one unit and that's how we do."

It's worked. The Creek is 14-0 and back in the 4AA championship game, which they’ll play Saturday against top-ranked Wake Forest High School.

Martin exemplifies the type of players on this year's Mavs team. Perhaps under-recruited, but hard to outwork.

“I've learned to work through the struggle,” he said.

Part of that struggle was a torn ACL his sophomore season.

“I learned to be humble and appreciate every rep,” said Martin. “Not everybody gets to play the sport of football. This game can be taken from you at any moment."

Last year, Martin transferred to Mallard Creek and had to play behind an older player.

“You have to accept your role on the team and keep working through it no matter what,” he said. “You never know what can happen on the field. Next man up, always."

Martin works hard on the field — he wants to earn a Division I scholarship — and he's got the grades to do it.

“We're student-athletes for a reason. We have to do our job in the classroom before we can step on the field,” he said.

And on the field, Martin hopes to help the Mavs regain their state championship crown.

"It's been a great journey,” he said.