Vestavia shuts down Pelham

Vestavia wanted a shutout but instead settled for a 37-7 win at Pelham Friday night.

The Rebels chanted “We want zero!” as they jogged off with a 23-0 halftime lead, but couldn’t keep Panthers senior Will Hayden out of the end zone. Hayden caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Tripp Martin with :07 left in the third quarter for the game’s final score.

After the game, Pelham prayed, and then head coach Brett Burnett screamed for his team to sprint to the locker room. Burnett refused comment.

“I’ve been there,” Vestavia head coach Buddy Anderson said. “They’ll be fine. He’s a good coach and they’ll be fine.”

The blame was on Pelham’s front seven to improve a porous run defense, but Vestavia’s backs had other ideas. Junior Mike Brown rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries for the Rebels, who gained 281 yards on the ground against the Panthers.

“I’m just real excited right now. I thought it was going to be a real battle,” Brown said. “Not disregarding them, but it was real exciting to blow a team out because we really needed this.”

Vestavia (3-1, 3-0) remained unbeaten in Class 6A, Region 6, setting up a matchup at undefeated Mountain Brook next week.

Pelham’s offense found traction in the first half after trailing the Spartans 26-0 at halftime last week, but failed to score again after fumbling three times and losing all three.

The biggest blow came after senior Allen Dye caught a 37-yard touchdown for the Rebels to give them a 14-0 first quarter lead. Martin and junior Ryan Williams teamed to drive Pelham inside the 30, but Pelham fumbled on the next play and Vestavia recovered. Senior tight end Stephen Russell caught a 60-yard touchdown pass less than a minute later, giving Vestavia a 20-0 lead with 3:40 left in the second quarter.

“That was a big play,” Anderson said. “I’m proud of our team. Defensively we created some turnovers and played sound football. Offensively we took advantage of our turnovers. We’re getting better every week and that’s our goal.”

The Rebels dominated every facet of the game, as junior quarterback Ryan Howard threw for 153 yards and three touchdowns.

Martin and the Panthers nearly scored a second touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Vestavia senior Tram Walker intercepted Martin’s pass at the 1-yard line.

Pelham (2-2, 2-2) plays at Homewood next week. The Panthers will search for a way to shore up their run defense, which gave up 572 yards its last two games.

On the flip side, the Rebels will draft on Brown’s explosiveness until someone can stop him. Brown has now rushed for 432 yards in four games.

“It motivates the other side to go harder when I’m running,” Brown said. “It really helps. It opens up the passing game. Everything’s going as planned.”