By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Playing under the lights at McNary High School, the varsity football game between Claggett Creek and Whiteaker middle schools was back-and-forth for much of the first half.
But then Claggett Creek running back Ethan Martin busted it wide open.
Martin had three touchdowns in the game, including one as time expired in the first half, to lead the Panthers to a 66-20 victory over their Keizer rival on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
CCMS never trailed, scoring its first touchdown on a 49-yard pass from quarterback Jack McCarty to Elijha Devoursney. The Panthers failed to convert the two-point attempt but led 6-0 with 2:49 remaining in the first quarter.
Whiteaker only needed one snap to answer with a big play of its own as Ian Martin connected with Rian Canini for a 68-yard touchdown. The Wolverines too missed their two-point try.
Claggett Creek marched back down the field and on the 10th play of a 57-yard drive, Dyami Rios powered his way into the end zone from the 1-yard line. Rios also converted the two-point attempt to give the Panthers a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter.
CCMS then recovered an inadvertent onside kick and on the first offensive play from scrimmage Ethan Martin took a sweep to the right, then reversed field, stiff-armed a defender and sprinted 51 yards down the left sideline to extend the Panthers lead to 20-6.
“It just shows how athletic that kid is,” Claggett Creek head coach Aaron Carr said of Martin. “He turned a blown up play into a touchdown. Once he sees open field, it’s hard to contain him. He is so fast. He has progressively seen the field better in the last few weeks. We’ve really been working on keying on the blockers and he’s definitely improved there.”
Whiteaker head coach Tom Larimer noted his kids were just simply out of position.
“We knew what play they were going to run,” he said. “Our backside contain and we have practiced this continuously, our backside contain was 15 yards out of position. It’s hard for kids to stay disciplined when the play is on the other side of the field. When he (Ethan Martin) reversed course he was able to get to the edge because we simply were not there.”
The Wolverines kept battling as Canini connected with Cameron Parks for a 51-yard gain. Ian Martin then reached the end zone with a 2-yard run to get Whiteaker within 20-12 with 5:47 remaining in the first half.
The Wolverines then recovered an onside kick but dropped a pass in the end zone on fourth down.
But that’s as close as Whiteaker would get to the Panthers.
On fourth-and-1, McCarty threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Devoursney with 36 remaining in the first half.
“I noticed Whiteaker was really stacking the box on defense, expecting the run so we decided to put the ball up in the air,” Carr said.
Ian Martin found Canini for a 32-yard gain but then Whiteaker threw four incomplete passes to give Claggett the ball back with nine seconds remaining.
That’s all the time Ethan Martin needed as he took a fly sweep 72 yards as the horn sounded on the first half.
“The plan was to put some points on the board with nine seconds left,” Carr said. “I knew if he (Martin) could get outside, no one is going to catch him.”
The Panthers carried their momentum into the second half, further putting the game out of reach.
Rios finished with four touchdowns. Devoursney had three.
Unable to run the ball, Whiteaker wasn’t able to control the clock and keep Claggett’s offense off the field.
“I was disappointed that we couldn’t run the ball better because it forced us into a little bit more panicked offensive scheme that did not do a good enough job of keeping Ethan Martin off the field because if you want to beat Claggett, you have to keep Ethan Martin off the field,” Larimer said. “He’s too fast, he’s too good. He’s a touchdown waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. I’m really glad he’ll now be my kids’ teammate (at McNary) instead of playing against that kid.”
Quentin Camenisch scored Whiteaker’s only touchdown of the second half on a pass from Canini in the fourth quarter.
“Because it (giving up two touchdowns in the final minute of the first half) happened so quickly it was a really, really tough blow for kids this age to overcome,” Larimer said. “Up until a minute to go in halftime, it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had coaching a football team because I knew we were outmatched physically from the beginning but we were in the game. They were the better team from the first snap but I was so proud of the way our kids were hanging in there.”
Claggett won its final six games by a 266 to 85 margin.
“We definitely got better every week and the kids worked hard,” Carr said. “They got out of it what they put into it. They got to learn the lesson that hard work definitely pays off.”