Claggett Creek quarterback Jacob Allen stiff-arms a defender in the Panthers 18-14 victory over Straub on Wednesday, Sept. 18 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
With their backs against the wall in the opening period, the Claggett Creek football squad gave a gutsy performance in the final three quarters.
After trailing 14-0, the Panthers scored 18 unanswered points to claim the comeback victory in their season opener, beating Straub 18-14 on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Claggett Creek quarterback Jacob Allen connected with Izeyah Contreras for all three Panther touchdowns.
“These boys played tough. Down 14-0, it was a big deal for these guys to keep fighting. We could have easily given up, but the boys fought back,” Claggett Creek head coach Aaron Carr said.
The Panthers got off to a rocky start, fumbling the ball inside their own 10-yard line on the opening offensive possession. Straub took advantage by scoring on the following play.
On their next drive, Claggett Creek elected to go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory. Allen’s throw over the middle was batted down by a Straub defender and the Panthers were forced to turn the ball over on downs.
Claggett Creek continued to shoot themselves in the foot as a face mask penalty gave Straub the ball in the red zone. Straub scored moments later to take a 14-0 lead with less then a minute remaining in the first quarter.
But on the following series, Claggett Creek was able to seize a little momentum.
With the ball on the Panthers 40-yard line, Allen hit Contreras downfield on a deep out route. Contreras made a man miss, cut back against the grain and went 60 yards to the house for the score, trimming the deficit to 14-6.
The Panthers defense forced Straub to go three-and-out on their next possession, which went from bad to worse as the Straub center snapped the ball over the punter’s head on fourth down, which gave Claggett Creek the ball on the 15-yard line.
Two plays letter, Allen wanted to take another shot downfield for Contreras on a fade rout, even though the star receiver was being double-teamed. The throw came out wobbly as Allen was hit as he threw, but Contreras pulled the ball down with one hand and dragged a pair of defenders into the end zone for the score.
“I do that a lot in practice and this was my one chance to do it in a game,” Contreras said of his one-handed grab. “That was really cool.”
The Panthers still trailed by two after being unable to cross the plane on the two-point conversion. But they still had a chance to score when they got the ball back late in the second quarter.
On the last play of the first half, Allen connected with Contreras across the middle for a 25-yard score, giving the Panthers the lead going to the locker room.
“(Contreras) is a phenomenal athlete. He’s the type of kid that is going to be successful no matter where you put him,” Carr said. “He works hard in practice every day and he wants to make the big plays.”
While the Panthers offense played a crucial role in the comeback, it was the defense that set the tone for the team in the second half.
Claggett Creek held Straub scoreless in the second half, and forced three turnovers in the final 16 minutes of the game. Angel Vargas was a terror for the Panthers on the defensive line in the second half, coming away with four tackles for loss.
“(Vargas) came out laying out some kids in the second half. The other guys on the line of scrimmage did great too,” Carr said.
Straub had a chance to take the lead in the final minute of the contest, but a desperation pass deep downfield on fourth down fell incomplete, allowing the Panthers to seal the victory.
“It took a lot of teamwork and dedication to get this win,” Contreras said.