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Late turnover, Iloka TD run sparks Pflugerville to win over McNeil

Alberto Alvarado
American-Statesman Correspondent
Pflugerville head coach Charles Taylor led the Panthers to a 21-14 nondistrict win over McNeil Thursday.

PFLUGERVILLE — There are many intangibles you can use to measure the progress a football program makes and the 2020 Pflugerville Panthers showcased a certain grit that wasn’t quite there when the core of the team were juniors and sophomores last year.

That spark showed up during a key moment in the fourth quarter when Trey Snowberger recovered a fumbled punt to set up Jake Iloka’s winning 21-yard touchdown run to lift Pflugerville to a 21-14 win over McNeil at The Pfield.

“A year ago, they just didn’t have the experience to do it,” Panthers head coach Charles Taylor said. “A lot of games were were winning or in it at halftime and we came back out and shut down. These kids have some grit to them, some experience and they handled it well tonight.”

Pflugerville (2-0) junior quarterback Jaylon Reeves completed 8 of 10 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown to go with three rushes for 60 yards and another score. The Panther defense held McNeil to just 56 yards of offense after halftime.

McNeil junior quarterback Luke Hutchison led the Maverick offense with 163 yards and a touchdown rushing.

The last big play of the contest happened when Pflugerville was forced to punt on its own 37-yard line line midway through the fourth quarter. The McNeil returner attempted to field the ball inside the Mavs 20, but fumbled.

“You hold your breath, we have kids now that they don’t panic, they do the best they can,” Taylor said about the play. “He went and did the best he could and got us out of a bad situation.”

After Snowberger’s recovery, it took just two plays for the Panthers to score the eventual winning touchdown as Iloka took a handoff left before reversing course and beating the McNeil defense to the right side of the field and into the end zone.

The Panthers defense was able to turn McNeil (0-2) away on its final two drives, most of which took place without Hutchison who left the game with an injury.

Pflugerville junior running back Elijah Oakmon had a strong game with 19 carries for 84 yards.

Hutchison showed off his elusiveness in the opening half rushing for 116 yards on eight carries, with the two biggest runs helping the Mavs put points on the board.

The junior quarterback broke one Panther tackle and scampering 47 yards to the end zone with just 80 seconds remaining in the first quarter to open the scoring. That drive was set up by a partially blocked Pflugerville punt attempt that gave McNeil great field position.

Hutchison helped set up a Kaleb Cooper touchdown with a 45-yard run that gave the Mavs a first and goal from the Pflugerville three-yard-line. Cooper ran it in on the following play to put McNeil back on top 14-7 with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the first half.

That lead would not last long however as Reeves ran the hurry-up offense to the end zone.

Reeves completed all four pass attempts in the final 66 seconds of the half, including a 39-yard touchdown toss to Donald Springs on the final play to send the teams to the locker rooms tied at 14 points apiece.

Reeves gave the home team its first points of the game with a nine-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter that tied the score at 7-7.