Spring revenge: Pelham football defeats Bessemer City in playoff rematch

The Pelham High School football team picked up where it left off the 2009 season — playing the Bessemer City Tigers — but it was the Panthers who emerged victorious Thursday, May 13 at Ned Bearden Stadium, as Dominique Harris scored two touchdowns in the 13-0 shutout victory.

The Tigers, then known as Jess Lanier, defeated the Panthers 10-3 Nov. 6, 2009, in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs, and the last game in historic Snitz Snider Stadium.

“The two teams that played last year are not the same two teams that played tonight,” Pelham head coach Brett Burnett said. “It’s good to play against some different competition, and it’s good to win one.”

After holding the Tigers in the red zone on the game’s opening drive, the Panthers took the ball right down the field, and Reed Bright hauled in a 38-yard pass from quarterback Gray Cato to set up the 2-yard touchdown run by Harris.

The Panthers added another score late in the second quarter, but it came after a controversial interception, three Bessemer City personal fouls and the ejection of Tigers head coach Billy Woodham.

With Bessemer City driving late in the quarter, Pelham linebacker Michael Boyd wrestled an interception away from a Tiger receiver at the 2-yard line, and Woodham came onto the field to seek an explanation.

After the referees flagged Woodham twice, he was ejected, and the Tigers received one more 15-yard penalty to put the Panthers near midfield.

“He told me to leave,” Woodham said as he exited the field. “He said I said he was cheating.”

After the delay for the penalties and ejection, Pelham put together three first downs before Harris took the ball in from 3 yards out for his second score of the game.

Bright missed the extra point to leave the Panthers a 13-0 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, kicker Tanner McGinnis missed a 39-yard field goal, and the Panthers missed another scoring opportunity when Fletcher Johnson’s 7-yard touchdown run was called back due to holding on the last play of the quarter.

McGinnis missed a 48-yard field goal as a result of the penalty.

Antonio London recovered a Bessemer City fumble on the ensuing possession, but McGinnis missed his third field goal of the game, this time from 46 yards, and neither team threatened to score again.

Burnett said he was proud of the way his offense performed, especially after the team switched from a fast-paced spread offense to a run-first approach during the offseason.

“It’s a work in progress,” Burnett said. “We have a lot of work to do.”