By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Whiteaker’s varsity football team didn’t get its storybook ending, falling to Parrish 20-6 on Thursday, Nov. 1 in the Salem-Keizer Middle School Championship game.
“We came out flat,” Whiteaker head coach Tom Larimer said. “I think the kids were super nervous. We didn’t block well in the first quarter. We started to play better in the second quarter. We got close a number of times and just didn’t execute when we had to execute.”
The Wolverines tied the game at 6-6 when quarterback Braiden Copeland scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown with 55 seconds remaining in the first half.
Whiteaker then recovered an on-side kick and Copeland connected with Johan Singh-Sanchez for a 34-yard gain to get inside the Parrish 5-yard line. However, three players later, Copeland was tackled at the 2-yard line as time expired.
Parrish running back Josiah Davis then broke free for a 53-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter to give the North Salem feeder the lead for good.
The Wolverine offense again drove inside the Parrish 10-yard line but weren’t able to score any points after a holding penalty set up a fourth-and-long at the 21.
Whiteaker’s defense then produced a turnover when linebacker Hunter Ruberto blitzed through the Parrish line and intercepted a handoff from Pioneers quarterback Nevin Zeller.
But even starting at the Parrish 14-yard line, the Wolverines failed to add any points.
“It was tough to run the ball against them,” Larimer said. “They’re big. They’re strong. They were putting eight or nine guys in the box and they were making it tough to run. They have some really good athletes up front.”
Micah Richter added an 88-yard touchdown run for Parrish with 6:52 remaining in the game.
Copeland got Whiteaker back into the red zone on a 59-yard run but the drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down at the 13.
Copeland finished with 99 yards rushing and 144 passing.
The Wolverines entered the game 7-0.
“I love these kids,” Larimer said. “They try so hard and I told them win or lose I feel exactly the same about them. I love these kids. They’re like my own kids now. I just feel grateful to be involved and to have this kind of interaction with these kids. Parrish has a bunch of good athletes and when they needed to make plays they made plays and they deserved to win that game.”