Pelham short against North Gwinnett

It was the test both teams were looking for, and after a three-hour battle on regional television, Pelham Panther fans learned that either North Gwinnett is over rated or the Panthers are about to embark on a season to remember in their return to Class 6A, Region 6.

The home stands of Ned Bearden Stadium was at near capacity as Pelham rallied from a 3-point deficit twice, only to come up short in the end, 24-17 in the fall exhibition.

“We put 17 up, which was kind of disappointing. We need to take care of the ball and make the most of the opportunities we get,” Pelham head coach Brett Burnett. “Unfortunately we didn’t make enough plays tonight. We played hard, and I think it’s something we can grow on and we can build on.”

North Gwinnett, last year’s runner-up in the state of Georgia’s Class 5A, controlled the clock in the second half, giving Pelham the ball on offense for only five minutes and holding the Panthers to 112 yards of second-half offense.

“We need to be consistent (on offense) and not put ourselves in third-and-long situations,” Burnett said.

The Panthers took a 14-10 lead into halftime after a 3-yard touchdown run by Dominique Harris and a 17-yard touchdown pass from Tripp Martin to Shawn Lynch countered a field goal and 19-yard touchdown pass by the Bulldogs.

However, a 67-yard pass from North Gwinnett quarterback Michael Tamburo to C Dixon helped open the third quarter with a touchdown to give the Bulldogs the lead, 17-14. Aside from the touchdown pass, the Panthers’ defense contained the Bulldogs’ offense until the final minute.

After Dan Jackson’s 35-yard field goal tied the game, 17-17, with 9:14 to play, the Bulldogs managed to push the ball down the field but the Panthers held their ground. It wasn’t until a long drive in the final four minutes of the game that the Bulldogs were able to push their way into the end zone. With less than a minute to play, Alvin Hines stopped Tamburo at the goal line on a quarterback draw, stripping the ball from his hands, but Tamburo was able to recover to set up the game-winning touchdown run from inches out by Tyler Jarry with :32 to play. Martin completed one pass on the final drive but was unable to push the Panthers down field in a short amount of time, finishing the game 16-of-27 with 190 yards passing.

Dexter Paschal, last year’s county leader in sacks with eight, took down Tamburo four times for a combined loss of 41 yards and had 12 tackles in the game. His pass rush also led to a blocked pass and a hurry. Jake Holland also had 12 tackles, while Alvin Hines and Derek Slaughter each had 11 tackles in the secondary.

The game, broadcast live on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS), was not only a test for Pelham, but for North Gwinnett, who opens the season next week on regional television again against Byrnes High School of South Carolina in the National Football Challenge.

“I don’t know if you could have a better preseason match-up. This is high school football, a lot of reps, both teams went no huddle, man this is what it ought to be about,” said Sphire.

Sphire has been pursued by Neese High School in Florida to play preseason next year but Sphire hopes to continue coming to Alabama and keep the Border Classic alive in the preseason after playing Prattville last year.

“I love coming over here to Alabama. There’s great high school football in Alabama, tremendous football,” Sphire said.