Parting shot: Playoff effort not enough to advance Pelham past Vestavia, quarter-finals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A fumble ending an early threat and the 50-yard return of an onside kick were costly to Pelham Panthers last Friday night.

The Panthers fell to the Rebels of Vestavia Hills 49-28 at home in the third round of the state Class 6A football playoffs.

Still, the Panthers ended its season with 10-3 overall record and as Region 5 champs.

They also equaled the best performance by a Pelham High School football team since 1998 by reaching the third round of playoffs.

Pelham senior quarterback Josh Thomason said following the game, &8220;I feel like we really raised the bar for Pelham football at lot this year. It would have been nice to go on past this week, but I really feel like we&8217;ve left these younger kids something to shoot for.&8221;

Pelham head football coach Brett Burnett was also pleased with the performance by his team this year.

&8220;We&8217;ve come a long way… We just have to take this and build on it and get ready for next year now. I&8217;m proud of our seniors. They did a great job,&8221; said Burnett.

Despite falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, the Panthers proved a much better foe than the last time the Rebels thumped them 27-0.

The Panthers posed an early threat that ended after a missed field goal try by visiting Vestavia Hills.

The Panthers were on the move inside the Rebels&8217; territory until the ball slipped loose and was recovered by the Rebels at their own 31-yard line.

Moments later, Justin Rogers, who proved diffifult for the Panthers to contain all night, scored on a 67-yard run.

After forcing the Panthers to punt, the Rebels appeared to have scored on a kick return. But the play was called back for a block in the back.

The reprieve was brief, as moments later on a third-and-five play the Rebels&8217; Chris Underwood roped in a 33-yard touchdown strike from Chris Petro.

With 4:14 left in the first quarter, the Rebels were off to a 14-0 start.

But Pelham&8217;s senior quarterback Thomason showed he could toss s TD ball as well. He connected with senior Isaac Bivins for 24 yards and the score.

Things started looking brighter for the Shelby County team at three minutes to go in the opening period of the so-far 14-7 ball game.

But when Pelham tried one of its famous onside kicks, the Rebels were ready for it. Burnett took the blame. &8220;I made a bad call on the kickoff,&8221; he said.

Harrison Warr scooped it up for the Rebels and ran 50-yards for the score to boost Vestavia Hills to a 21-7 advantage.

&8220;I think it was a big play on that onside kick they tried. We worked we real hard on that all week because they do an extra good job on it,&8221; said Vestavia Hills head football coach Buddy Anderson. &8220;Our kid (Warr) did a great job.&8221;

Pelham closed the gap again to 21-14 when Thomason connected with Bivins on a 5-yard pass play.

The Rebels, however, took advantage of another Pelham fumble. This time, they capitalized on a 20-yard pass from Petro to Rogers for the score. And with 4:32 left in the half, the Rebels&8217; lead was 28-14.

The third quarter proved a nightmare for the Panthers.

The Rebels&8217; Rogers scored three more times on runs of 65 yards, seven yards and four yards to pull out of reach 49-14.

But the Panthers would not give up the fight, and scored twice in the fourth quarter.

Pelham capped a nine play 76-yard drive with a 15-yard pass from Thomason to senior Wes Holland in the fourth quarter. Holland also tossed a two-point conversion pass to senior Russell Prince to make it a 49-22 contest.

The Panthers recovered an onside kick late and capped a two-play, 15-yard drive with a 15-yard pass from Thomason to Drew Roy to make the final 49-28.

The last score came with 26 seconds left in the game.

&8220;The kids never gave up and fought to the end,&8221; said Burnett. &8220;That&8217;s a great team we lost to.&8221;

Against the Vestavia Hills Rebels, Pelham senior quarterback Thomason completed 22 of 34 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. He also suffered three interceptions.

Senor running back Holland had 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, and senior running back Prince had seven carries for 31 yards.

Senior wide receiver Bivins had eight catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Austin Demsky got into the act completing one pass attempt for nine yards.

Junior wide receiver Drew Roy had two catches for 22 yards and a touchdown.

Vestavia Hills&8217; Rogers had 243 yards on 17 carries and one catch for 20 yards. He also accounted for five of the Rebels touchdowns.

The Rebels&8217; Petro completed two of six passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns