Jags win catfight: Grass picks up win against Pelham in Spain Park debut

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 5, 2006

In what has to be remembered as an epic catfight, the Spain Park Jaguars defeated the Pelham Panthers on the road 26-21 last Thursday night.

If not for a roughing the kicker call against the Panthers on a field goal try late in the game, the Panthers could have come out on top.

&8220;We just made way too many mistakes and turned the ball over too many times early in the game,&8221; said a disappointed Pelham head football coach Brett Burnett.

Burnett said on the roughing the kicker play his team had in &8220;young kids that hadn&8217;t played before.&8221;

&8220;It was my fault,&8221; he said.

At that point Pelham led Spain Park 21-20 after having been down by as much as 17-7.

With a fourth-and&045;five at the Pelham 28, Spain Park&8217;s Ben Meadows failed at what would have been a 45-yard field goal. But the roughing the kicker call gave the Jaguars new life.

And with second-and-goal at the Pelham 2-yard line, Coty Wells scampered in for what would prove the winning run.

&8220;We played well in spots,&8221; said Spain Park head football coach John Grass.

&8220;It&8217;s good to go on the road and open the season with a win with a young football team,&8221; Grass said.

Grass said the Jaguars got off to a good start but couldn&8217;t put Pelham away in the first half. &8220;I knew it wasn&8217;t over when we got up 17-0,&8221; he said.

Grass said he felt Pelham was the number one or number two team in their region. &8220;And you know &8230; I think both teams played extremely hard tonight. It was just a good opener. I mean a good atmosphere for a high school football game.&8221;

Grass said he thought Wells had a good night at quarterback. He completed 23 of 36 passes for 256 yards.

He said he thought the team ran the ball at times extremely well.

&8220;Number one, it keeps their (Pelham&8217;s) offense off the field, which is very very good,&8221; he said. &8220;And we thought we needed to control the football, keep our defense off the field.&8221;

Grass had praise for the play of running backs Eli Smith, 17 carries for 108 yards, and James Willis, 10 carries for 47 yards, as well as the play of the offensive line.

He also gave good marks to senior leader and wide receiver Justin Diliberto, who caught eight passes for 124 yards. &8220;All you can say about him, he&8217;s a playmaker,&8221; Grass said.

Grass credited his defense for holding Pelham to 21 points.

About the close call at the end, Grass said, &8220;I was glad we were put in the situation we were in tonight. I wanted to see how our guys responded to that.&8221;

On the other side, Pelham&8217;s Burnett said he was proud of his team for the way they battled.

&8220;I thought Isaac Bivins (senior wide receiver) made some big plays. I thought Wes (Holland, senior running back) had some big plays. I thought our line protected fairly well.&8221;

Pelham quarerback Josh Thomason completed 15 to 26 passes for 205 yards.

Bur Burnett lamented, &8220;You know you can&8217;t turn the ball over four times and beat a team like Spain Park.&8221;

&8220;The thing that I liked about the game is that our kids

fought to the end and never gave up and even had a chance there at the very end to get the ball back,&8221; Burnett said.

However, he said, &8220;Spain Park came out and played well. They earned it.&8221;

He stressed, however, that the battle with Spain Park was not a region game. He said the game next is the one that really counts, a region game with Paul Bryant.

Spain Park drew first blood at the 9:57 mark of the first quarter on a 9-yard pass from Wells to Brandon Harris. Meadows added the point after. He would go on to kick two extra points and two field goals for 8 points.

Meadows added a 22-yard field goal at the 11:44 mark of the second quarter to put the Jaguars up 10-0.

Smith next scored for Spain Park on a 31-yard burst. Meadows added the PAT, and the visitors led 17-0 with 5:48 left in the first half.

Pelham responded quickly, however, with a 63-yard touchdown toss from Josh Thomason to Bivins at the 5:27 mark of the first half. Daniel Jackson added the point after to make the score 17-7 still in favor of Spain Park.

Pelham would pull within 4 points on 33-yard run by Holland and PAT by Jackson at the 2:54 mark of the second quarter.

With 39 seconds left in the half, Meadows booted a 32-yard field goal to put the Jaguars up 20-14.

Pelham would grab the lead for the first time of the night in the fourth quarter when Thomason hit Bivins with a 13-yard strike. Meadows added the go-ahead PAT to put the Panthers up 21-20 with 11:54 left in the game.

Spain Park had reached the 28 of Pelham when the Jaguars attempted a go-ahead field goal of 45 yards. The kick was no good, but a yellow flag lay on the field. The Panthers were guilty of roughing the kicker.

Spain Park would go on to score on a 2-yard run by Wells. The two-point try failed, but Spain Park held on for the win 26-21