Spain Park tops Pelham

Despite two kickoff returns for touchdowns and a blocked punt, the Pelham special teams could not save the Panthers as Spain Park used an efficient running game to hold onto the Class 6A, Region 6 victory, 29-21.

The first quarter started off sluggish for both teams, with Spain Park (2-0, 2-0) having to quick-kick punt on third down of the opening drive and Pelham having to punt after going three-and-out.

The Pelham defense went to work on the next possession, recovering a DaRon Smith fumble.

The Spain Park defense answered the call, forcing the Panthers (1-1, 1-1) to punt before Pelham’s Jake Holland forced the Jaguars’ second fumble of the quarter and then recovered it.

Pelham went to its wildcat formation on the ensuing possession, but the plan backfired as running back turned quarterback Ryan Williams’ pass was picked off by Spain Park’s Arron Haag.

The Jags wasted little time reaching the end zone as quarterback Graham Craig connected with Jake Lee for the 65-yard touchdown strike to put Spain Park up 7-0 following Austin Lumpkin’s extra-point kick.

The Spain Park defense held steady once again, and the Jags’ offense went right back to work.

However, Lumpkin’s 37-yard field goal missed, but the Panthers roughed the kicker to give the ball back to the Jags.

Just a few plays later, Smith took the ball in from 10 yards out to put the Jags up 14-0.

The Panthers quickly answered on the ensuing kickoff, as Williams returned the ball 95 yards for the final score of the half.

Pelham’s special teams picked up where they left off in the first half when a short kickoff by Spain Park to open the second half was returned 60 yards for the score by Reed Bright.

Cameron Haynes’ extra point failed, leaving the score 14-13.

After forcing the Jags to punt on the next possession, linebacker Nigel Terrell broke through the Spain Park line and blocked the punt.

Williams took the ball in two plays later from 1 yard out to give Pelham its only lead of the game.

Spain Park added a 26-yard touchdown strike on the next drive to take the lead for good, 21-19, before adding a safety on Pelham’s next offensive possession.

Lumpkin increased Spain Park’s lead to 26-19 on a 34-yard field goal with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter, before duplicating that effort with 4:56 left in the game to put the Jags up 29-19.

The Jags handed the Panthers two point on a safety with four seconds remaining in the game, but the damage had already been done.

Spain Park stays in Region 6 play Friday, as the Jags travel to Thompson.

Pelham will also stay in Region 6 action, as the Panthers travel to Mountain Brook.

Kickoff for both games is set for 7 p.m.