Late defensive stop gives Pelham a thrilling 29-25 win over rival Helena

Published 12:32 am Saturday, September 16, 2017

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

PELHAM–In a back-and-forth game, Pelham came up with a huge defensive stop late in the fourth quarter to preserve a 29-25 win over rival Helena on Friday, Sept. 15, as both teams faced off in a critical early season region game that did not disappoint.

“We’ve lost two like that this year and I don’t think our kids could’ve taken another one honestly,” Pelham head coach Tom Causey said after the game. “I was really proud of our defense to make that play when they did.”

It was Pelham that got on the scoreboard first as Panther running back Nicolas Blackburn ran it in as Pelham took a 7-0 lead with 5:25 to go in the first quarter.

An odd sequence occurred late in the first quarter as both Helena and Pelham lost fumbles on consecutive plays, but neither team could capitalize and Pelham lead 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The majority of the second quarter belonged to the Huskies as Helena scored 13 unanswered points.

Helena’s first touchdown came when wide receiver Dionte Tolbert scored from a yard out from the wildcat formation. The extra point was no good as Helena trailed 7-6 with 6:47 until halftime.

After getting a defensive stop, Helena got the ball back and made a big play through the air.

Helena starting quarterback Luke Stamba, making just his second career start, threw a beautiful 63-yard touchdown pass to veteran wide receiver Justin Stuckey to put the Huskies on top 13-7 to regain momentum.

Pelham then responded nicely with a late touchdown drive before the half.

Panthers starting quarterback Matthew Rye engineered a nice drive with 3:50 to go and scored from 1-yard out on a quarterback sneak with 35 seconds to go until halftime as Pelham regained the lead 14-13.

Rye finished the game 8-for-15 with 56 yards passing and added 16 rushes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Helena received the ball to start the third quarter and executed an 80-yard drive while controlling the line of scrimmage as running back Kamau Greene ran it in from 9 yards out to put the Huskies up 19-13. The extra point was no good.

Pelham then answered the call as time expired in the third quarter. Panthers running back Dylan Peterson scored from 12 yards out to put Pelham back on top 22-19 at the end of the third quarter.

The seesaw battle continued into the fourth quarter as this time Stamba made a play with his legs.

Stamba scored on a quarterback keeper from 11-yards out to put the Huskies back on top 25-22 with 7:51 to go in the game. Instead of electing to kick the extra point, the Huskies attempted a 2-point conversion, but failed.

On the next drive, Rye gave Helena a taste of its own medicine by scoring on a 20-yard quarterback keeper with 5:43 to go in the game. The Panthers kicked the extra point to extend their lead to 29-25.

Late in the game, Helena now needed a touchdown or the game would be over.

Helena got a couple of first downs, but faced a fourth down and 8 in Pelham territory with 2:20 to play needing a conversion.

The Panthers defense got the one stop that it needed as Tolbert caught Stamba’s pass short of the first down, resulting in a turnover on downs.

Pelham regained possession and ran the ball forcing the Huskies to use their time outs. The Helena defense made a stop as the Panthers faced a fourth down and one and were positioned to get the ball back to the offense for one final try to win the game.

However, a costly offsides penalty would end the game as Rye caused Helena’s defense to jump offsides resulting in a first down. Pelham kneeled the ball three consecutive times to preserve the 29-25 win.

“Man I talked to Watt and Watt and I were teammates at West Alabama and you know it’s always going to be like this when we play them no matter what,” Causey said. “That’s what a rivalry game is all about and honestly I think their guys came out ready to play in the first half and we were flat. Credit our football team for responding in the second half when we had to.”

Pelham and Helena are now both 1-1 region play.