Panthers win shootout, section title

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kevin Rose buried the Pelham Panthers’ fifth and final penalty kick into the net and took off running for his teammates Tuesday, as Pelham downed Thompson, 2-1, to win the Border War trophy and Class 6A, Section 6 title.

“It felt great. You work so hard the whole year and played 90 minutes as hard as we could tonight and then to put it away,” Rose said.

The 5-4 difference in the shootout was thanks to a stop by senior goalkeeper Austin Pierce on Thompson’s third kick.

Trey Jacobson, who scored a PK with 31 minutes left in regulation to tie the game, 1-1, shot the ball down the center, but a diving Pierce managed to get a leg on it to give Pelham the advantage.

“I saw he kicked it down the middle while I dove, so I just stuck my legs up and tried to block it. I’ve actually done that before this year. I got lucky,” Pierce said.

Saul Arceo scored on a free kick in the 16th minute of the game to give Pelham a 1-0 lead in the first half.

With the win, Pelham will host the first round of the Class 6A playoffs, the first playoff trip in a long time for the Panthers – a strong task for a group of seniors that were 0-10 as freshmen.

“Tradition starts today,” Pelham head coach Patrick McDonald said. “What they did and their sacrifice over the last four years has really paved the road to future success of these underclassmen.”

The Panthers’ guest for the first round playoff game April 28 will be two-time defending state champion Oak Mountain, who lost 2-1 to Hoover Tuesday.

Tuesday’s loss puts Thompson’s fate out of its control, needing Northridge to lose to Bryant to have a shot at the playoffs. Thompson head coach Adam Johnson was pleased with his team’s performance and the battle the Warriors have taken through the spring after losing six starters to injury since midseason.

“They did everything you could ask them to do. They left it all on the field. PKs are a bad way to win or lose,” Johnson said. “(Losing those six) has been an extremely noticeable difference just trying to rebuild and renew our identity.”

If Thompson were to find its way into the playoffs, the Warriors would travel to Hoover April 28 for the first round.