BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — Senior Devon Cleghorn rushed 51 times for 301 yards and four touchdowns as Maumee defeated rival Perrysburg 27-14 last Friday. “I’m beyond proud that I was a big part of this, but I could not have done this without my teammates and my coaches pushing us to give our all, he said.” The Panthers finished their 2017 season at 6-4 (4-3 in Northern Lakes League play) after the victory on a cold and rainy evening. In doing so, they earned the right to keep the coveted Ding Dong Bell at Maumee for the first time since 2011. “The rivalry was a huge factor in not only the game, but for practice and the mindset before the game,” Cleghorn said. “It drove me and all my teammates to go out there and bring back that bell for the first time since 2011.” After forcing a quick punt to start the game, the Panthers found immediate success while handing the ball off to their star running back. Cleghorn gained 48 yards before he capped a 5:47 drive by following the lead block of fellow senior back Caleb Brown into the end zone from 6 yards out. The extra point by junior Kyle Robinson gave Maumee a 7-0 lead over the Yellow Jackets with 6:34 still remaining in the opening quarter. Brown again came up big for the Panthers by recovering a Perrysburg fumble just four plays later. After gaining 6 additional yards on his ninth carry of the contest, Cleghorn scored his second touchdown on a 39-yard scamper. Robinson’s point-after doubled Maumee’s lead at 14-0 with 5:09 left in the stanza. A 22-yard completion from sophomore quarterback Drew Sims to senior receiver Ty Bezek helped Perrysburg advance the ball all the way down to the Panthers’ 24-yard line on its next possession, but a fumbled snap and a sack by senior linebacker Ryan Haas – his third of the season – eventually led to a turnover on downs. Fortunately for the Yellow Jackets, Bezek recovered a high snap on Maumee’s 27 with 1:58 still left in the first. From there, a Panthers personal foul penalty helped Perrysburg get to Maumee’s 7-yard line, where sophomore back Caleb Gerken scored on a pair of runs. Sims’ extra point cut the Panthers’ lead in half at 14-7, just before the start of the second quarter. Despite some nice gains by Maumee’s Cleghorn, senior receiver Luis Perez and sophomore quarterback Zach Marvin and the Yellow Jackets’ Bezek, Gerken, Sims and sophomore receiver Nic Kilbride, neither team was able to score in the frame. After briefly warming up in the locker room during halftime, though, Cleghorn and the Panthers got back to work. After carving out runs of 49 and 11 yards, Cleghorn went on to post his third touchdown from a yard out. The point-after attempt failed, but Maumee still took a 20-7 lead with 9:42 remaining in the third. The second possession of the second half saw a sack by Panthers senior lineman Brandon Phillips and the fourth interception of the season by senior safety Justin Schneider, but they only led to an eventual missed 25-yard field goal attempt once Maumee got the ball back. With long completions from Sims to Gerken, Perrysburg was driving the ball as the third quarter came to an end. A bit of controversy then made an appearance three plays into the fourth, directly after a sack by Panthers senior linebacker Robert Caesar – his second of the year. That’s because Cleghorn came up with what appeared to be a Yellow Jackets fumble, but it was instead ruled an incomplete pass. Two plays later, Simms hooked up with junior receiver Ian Riddle for a 21-yard touchdown completion before tacking on the extra point. Just like that – Perrysburg was right back in the thick of things, trailing by just six points at 20-14 with 10:37 left in the game. After forcing an ensuing Maumee punt, the Yellow Jackets shifted their offensive focus back on the arm of Sims. After gaining 48 yards on two passes to Riddle – who came down with an impressive one-handed grab on the second – Sims was sacked by the Panthers’ Phillips for a second time. “This game meant the world to me,” Phillips said. “I’ve been thinking of this game and the desired outcome from the start of my football career. I can’t describe how proud I am of my team for getting the bell. The satisfaction of having achieved all of our dreams is an unreal feeling.” Facing a fourth-and-17 situation, Sims found Kilbride down the field, but he was ruled out of bounds on the catch. Following a turnover on downs, Cleghorn and the Panthers ate up a crucial 3:18 out of the Wildcat Formation. The drive ended with Cleghorn’s fourth touchdown, which he scored from Perrysburg’s 9-yard line. Robinson’s point-after opened Maumee’s lead up to 13 points at 27-14, before senior cornerback Jon Bays intercepted a late Yellow Jackets pass to seal the deal. Cleghorn’s final run pushed him over the 300-yard mark and enabled Marvin to end the game by taking consecutive knees to run out the clock. “It was a total team effort and none of it would have been possible without those other 10 guys out there with me,” Cleghorn said. “Perrysburg knew I would most likely get the ball, but the line and everyone else executed setting up all the plays for me.” Cleghorn entered the game as the Northern Lakes League’s leading rusher and finished the season with 1,405 yards and 17 touchdowns on 233 carries (6.0 yards per carry). The Panthers’ tremendous 2017 offensive line included Haas, Phillips, seniors Matt Dalton, Mike Haney and Tyler Lunsford, junior Justen Behnfeldt and sophomore Michael Helminski. “Devon is a fantastic football player and I know myself and all of the other linemen make it our goal every game to pave the way for him,” Phillips said. “We love to ensure his success week in and week out.” Marvin completed 2-of-3 passes against Perrysburg for 38 yards, Perez reeled in 28 receiving yards and Brown ran for 24 while gaining 6 yards per carry. Perrysburg’s Sims completed 15-of-27 passes for 257 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, Bezek caught eight passes for 103 yards, Gerken totaled 84 yards and a touchdown and Riddle notched 55 yards on three catches. Caesar (sack), Cleghorn (hurry) and Haas (sack) led Maumee’s defense with six tackles apiece, Perez, Phillips (two sacks) and Schneider (interception) added five stops each and Bays (forced fumble, interception) tacked on four tackles. “I played my very best in the game,” Phillips said. “It was a lot of fun to give my absolute all in the my last football game ever. I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t completely dedicate myself to the rest of my teammates in our final game together.” Those totals gave Haas a team-high 72 tackles, three sacks and three fumble recoveries on the season. Phillips followed with 63 stops, five hurries and three sacks and Schneider racked up 58 tackles and a team-high four interceptions. Senior back Brady Thomas, juniors Carl Conley (linebacker), Ethan Garee (linebacker), Drew Newton (end), Haydn Smith (back), sophomore linebacker Preston Evans and freshman lineman Cade Zimmerly all played well for the Yellow Jackets defense, despite the loss. The six wins gave football coach Marc Gibson his first winning season in five years at Maumee. “It gives me a great feeling knowing we went out on such a high note,” Cleghorn said. “It will be a memory I’ll remember my whole life. Coach Gibson deserved this. He is not only a phenomenal coach, but one of the most phenomenal people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.” Phillips agreed. “Coach Gibson has done so much for all of us and to end our final season on such a high note was a way of saying thank you. He has completely dedicated himself to this program, and to give him a winning season is a great way to end my high school career.”
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