Claggett Creek receiver Davien Cabrera looks for more yardage after making a first down grab (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

The Whiteaker varsity football squad put together an impressive effort in the second half to get back into the game, but in the end, the Wolverines were no match for the explosive offense of Claggett Creek in this crosstown rivalry game.

Claggett Creek quarterback Jacob Allen threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Panthers defeated Whiteaker 22-16 under the lights at McNary High School on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

“We played tough all game and never gave up. These guys have been getting better every week,” Claggett Creek head coach Aaron Carr said. 

The game couldn’t have begun much better for the Panthers as they recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff. From there, the Claggett Creek offense kept the Wolverines off-balance with their lethal mix of run and pass plays. 

After a pair of first downs, Allen found Izeyah Contreras on an out rout for a 18-yard gain to make it first-and-goal. The following play, Allen called his own number, finding the end zone on a nine-yard scramble. The two-point conversion put the Panthers up 8-0. 

“You can’t replace a kid like (Allen). He’s just a phenomenal athlete. He doesn’t take a play off and he’s the kind of kid that you can count on,” Carr said. 

Whiteaker, however, was able to respond on their first possession of the game. 

With their powerful, downhill rushing attack, the Wolverines went 65 yards in 10 plays. Running back Marquis Jackson punctuated the drive with a six-yard touchdown run, then scored on the conversion attempt to tie the game at 8-8.

Jackson finished the contest with 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

“We had some really good blocks and I just got the ball and was running hard. You always got to fall forward, even after contact,” Jackson said. 

But before the end of the first quarter, Contreras provided some fireworks for the crowd at Celtic Stadium.

On the ensuing kickoff, Manny De-Dios received the ball, reversed his field and handed off to Contreras, who raced up the sideline after breaking a couple tackles and got all the way down to the Wolverines 28-yard line.

Two plays later, Contreras found the end zone on an eight-yard pass from Allen, allowing the Panthers to retake the lead at 16-8. 

“One of our biggest weapons is Izeyah. Even when he doesn’t have the football, he’s a great distraction,” Carr said.

Contreras scored again on a two-yard touchdown reception before the half after the Claggett Creek defense made a key stop as the Panthers took a 22-8 lead into the locker room.

“That was probably our best game of the year,” Allen said. “Our blocking was amazing today.”

It looked like Claggett Creek was going to put the game out of reach when they marched into the red zone on their first drive of the third quarter. 

But the Wolverines recovered a fumble on a muffed snap to get the ball back, which ended up being a game-changing turnover. 

With the help of the physicality of their offensive line, Whiteaker pounded the ball between the tackles. Their 18-play drive took more than seven minutes off the clock, with Jackson finishing thing off with a two-yard run to make it a one possession game with 4:33 remaining. 

“We gave them all they could handle in the second half. I was very proud of the effort that they made,” Whiteaker head coach Thomas Larimer said. 

“I love how we brought it back in the second half,” Jackson added.

What once was a comfortable lead turned into a time of stress for the Panthers, especially when they faced a fourth-and-13 near midfield with just over three minutes remaining. 

Not wanting to put his tired defense back on the field, Carr elected to go for it on fourth down.

Throughout the season, Allen almost always targeted Contreras when faced with a passing situation, This time, however, Allen relied on his twin brother, Ben, to make the most important play of the game. 

Allen took the snap, rolled to his right and threw on the run for his brother, who was running up the seam.

The pass was high and initially looked to be out of reach, but Ben Allen reached up and made an incredible one-handed catch with his left hand for a 15-yard gain, allowing the Panthers to move the chains — and the clock. 

“I knew that we needed a first down. We didn’t want to give the ball back to Whiteaker. All I was trying to do was make the catch so we could run out the clock,” Ben Allen said.

Two plays later, Contreras got a first down on a three-yard rush, giving the Wolverines the ability to run out the rest of the clock.

“Ben is going to make that catch nine out of 10 times. He’s just very consistent. That is why we ran that play in that situation. It was a little bit of a high pass, but he went up there and snagged it to win the game,” Carr said. 

Claggett Creek moved to 5-1 with the win and Whiteaker dropped to 3-3 with the loss. 

“I was really proud that are kids hung in there until the very end. I don’t think Claggett felt good about their lead until the last minute of the game.” Larimer said.

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