Golden Gophers burrow through Panther defense

Published 10:53 pm Friday, October 2, 2015

No. 1 Nicholas Blackburn led Pelham's offense with 23 rushes good for 124 yards against the Hueytown Golden Gophers. (For the reporter / Dawn Harrison)

No. 1 Nicholas Blackburn led Pelham’s offense with 23 rushes good for 124 yards against the Hueytown Golden Gophers. (For the reporter / Dawn Harrison)

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

PELHAM— Despite having great field position all night, the Panthers’ offense was unable to take down the Hueytown Golden Gophers Oct. 2. Big mistakes offensively in the first half and penalties allowed the Gophers to outscore the Panthers 21-16.

Pelham gave a great effort in the second half, recovering from an 11-point deficit at halftime. Quarterback Griffin Rivers, who went 25 for 45 with 283 yards, greatly improved his passing game in the third.

With help from sophomore Nicholas Blackburn, 23 rushes for 124 yards, senior JT Reed, 10 catches for 87 yards, and freshman Kasey Clark, six catches for 65 yards, the Panthers came within one touchdown of the Gophers with three seconds left in the game.

Hueytown was first to score after intercepting an attempted pass by Pelham’s Rivers. The Gophers’ Brenden Long rushed the ball to the 4-yard line, allowing Roderick Madden to score the only touchdown in the first quarter.

Pelham answered with a 47-yard field goal kicked by junior Jose Jimenez, getting Pelham on the board in the second quarter. Although they were unable to score again in the second, the defense held the Gophers to one additional touchdown by Madden.

Connor Christian lead Pelham’s defense with 13 tackles, followed by Malik Copeland, John Drake and Jerry Spillers who all had six tackles each.

Panthers started the second half trailing Hueytown 3-14. They came out with promise putting the ball in line for Jimenez, but the kick was wide to the left and Hueytown got the ball on the 32-yard line.

An 8-yard carry by Hueytown’s Madden followed by an impressive 60-yard touchdown by Jaden Steele put the score at 3-21 with 7:29 left in the third.

Down by 18 points, the Panthers took every chance they had to gain field position for the rest of the game. Another missed field goal, along with penalties, kept the Panthers from putting more points on the board until the fourth quarter.

A 30-yard gain by Blackburn and a series gains by Reed, Elisha Hudson, Clark and Rivers allowed Blackburn to punch the ball in from the 10-yard line. The Panthers went for the two-point conversion, but couldn’t capitalize on the play.

At 9-21 Hueytown, the Panthers recovered an onside kick on thier own 49-yard line, but failed to take advantage of the field position. After gaining position of the ball again, Pelham got into the red zone, allowing Reed a touchdown pass with 3.8 seconds left in the game.

They recovered another onside kick for a shot at a Hail Mary, but the pass was no good and the Golden Gophers won the game 21-16.

“We were way too inconsistent in the first half,” said Pelham head coach Tom Causey. “I thought defensively we played well enough to win. We had a few breakdowns, obviously, but I thought our defense played well enough to win tonight. We didn’t do the things we needed to in the first half offensively to finish drives, we had penalties, we had a couple missed blocks…

“We had two missed field goals — great opportunities for scoring points right there. That’s six points that we didn’t get the chance back. We had a couple turnovers in the kicking game, and it’s just opportunities that we can’t, right now at the stage our team is and the impression we are making, we can’t make those mistakes.”