‘It’s not over’: Despite loss, Pelham makes playoffs

Despite losing a close-fought battle against the Hoover Bucs, 21-14, and finishing the season with a 3-5 Class 6A, Region 6 record, the Pelham Panthers are in the playoffs as a result of five-way tiebreaker.

The Panthers’ loss, couple with Homewood’s loss to Gardendale and Oak Mountain’s loss to Spain Park, created a five-way tie between Pelham, Homewood, Gardendale, Oak Mountain and Mountain Brook, and the Panthers’ advanced to the playoffs as the fourth seed as a result of the triple-overtime victory over No. 1 seed Vestavia in week 4.

“Hopefully, this will give us a boost,” Pelham head coach Brett Burnett said.

While the news ended up good for Pelham (3-6) on Friday night, it also started off the same way for the Panthers.

After Pelham’s Derek Slaughter forced a Hoover fumble and Chase P’Pool recovered on the Bucs’ first offensive possession, the Panthers pulled out some trickery to get on the board first.

On a double reverse throwback pass, quarterback Tripp Martin took the snap, handed the ball off to running back Ryan Williams, who in turn flipped the ball to receiver Reed Bright, who then threw the ball back across the field to Martin, who connected with Drew White for the 42-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead after Cameron Haynes’ point-after attempt.

But while the Panthers started the first quarter off strong, the Bucs finished it strong, scoring two touchdowns in the final 21 seconds.

The Bucs’ defense took control when Craig Mason recovered a Dominique Harris fumble, and then the Bucs’ offense went to work.

Hoover tied the game when quarterback Ryan Carter connected with Maudrecus Humphrey for the 26-yard strike, and then quickly took the lead on the Panthers’ next possession when Williams fumbled and Braxton Lowe scooped the ball up for a 7-yard touchdown return as time expired in the opening quarter.

The second quarter was good news, bad news for the Panthers, as linebacker Jake Holland grabbed an interception to kill a Hoover drive into the red zone.

However, Pelham quarterback Tripp Martin left the game with a shoulder injury, as neither team was able to find any offense in the quarter.

Martin was 11-of-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown when he left the game.

“We had some bad things go wrong,” Burnett said.

The third quarter was much like the second until 1:43 remaining when Carter connected with Joshua Magee from 45 yards out to put the Bucs up 21-7.

In the final quarter, the Panthers stopped the Bucs from extending the lead when Robb Johnson blocked a 49-yard field goal attempt by Larsen Real.

The Pelham offense was able to cut the lead to one possession on a 33-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Gray Cato to Harris on a fourth-and-13 play.

The Bucs seemingly put the game away on the ensuing kickoff when Humphrey returned the ball 90 yards for the score, but the play was called back and neither team was able to hit the end zone again as Hoover held on for the win.

The Panthers will close out the regular season at home Friday night against Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.

Pelham will hit the road to Bessemer for the first week of the playoffs against Jess Lanier, the No. 1 seed in Region 5.

“We have to get over the hump,” Burnett said. “It’s not over. It’s not over.”