Pelham routs Chilton County to clinch first playoff berth since 2013

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

PELHAM–The Pelham Panthers football team will be heading to the AHSAA 6A state playoffs for the first time since 2013 as they routed the visiting Chilton County Tigers 55-28 on Friday, Oct. 13, after exploding for 42 first half points.

Pelham needed a win over Class 6A Region 3 foe Chilton County as well as a Helena loss in order to clinch a playoff spot, and that’s exactly what happened.

The game was in never in question for Pelham as the Panthers started off red hot and never looked back on senior night.

Pelham opened the game with a 61-yard scoring drive capped off with a 15-yard touchdown run by running back Nic Blackburn to make it 7-0. Blackburn would finish the game with 7 rushes for 87 yards.

Chilton County also had a nice drive on their opening drive after getting nice field position after a failed onside kick attempt by Pelham.

The Tigers got down to the Pelham goal line when Chilton County elected to go for it on 4th down and goal from the 3-yard-line. On a pass to the end zone, Pelham defensive back Phillip Duke broke up the pass and the Panthers offense regained possession.

A few plays later, Pelham running back Dylan Peterson broke off a big 65-yard run for a touchdown to make it 14-0 with 4:36 to go in the first quarter.

The Pelham defense would stand tall on Chilton County’s second possession to force a three-and-out.

Pelham started its drive at its own 21-yard line where a heavy dose of rushes helped lead the Panthers down the field. Eventually Brandon Sledge scored from 7-yards out to become the third Panther player to cross the goal line and extend the lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter.

Down three scores, Chilton County elected once again to go for it on fourth down on its next offensive possession. The Tigers faced a fourth-and-3 from the Pelham 44-yard line as Pelham linebacker Tyler Hawkins swooped in making a huge tackle for loss to give the ball back to the Panthers offense. Hawkins would also have an interception later in the game.

Pelham quarterback Matt Rye did not record a touchdown until late in the second quarter but the junior QB still wound up leading the Panthers with a team-high in touchdowns and rushing yards.

With 5:08 to go till half, Rye scored on a quarterback run from 8-yards out to make it 28-0.

Rye wasn’t finished yet, as Pelham got the ball right back after a Hawkins interception.

Pelham capitalized on the turnover as the Panthers scored its first passing touchdown of the night when Rye hit wide receiver Edward Gipson for a 33-yard touchdown to make it 35-0.

Pelham would cap off the impressive first half with one more touchdown with just seconds remaining.

Rye took the ball and burst through the line as he galloped 85-yards for a touchdown to bring the score to 42-0 at halftime.

The Panthers opened the second half with an impressive drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock and ended with a 41-yard touchdown run by Rye to make it 49-0.

Rye finished the game 4-for-7 passing for 85 yards and one touchdown and 7 rushes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Despite being down multiple scores, Chilton County never quit and took advantage of the Pelham second team defense.

Tigers’ quarterback Shi Keem Laister scored the first touchdown of the game on a 55-yard touchdown run with 3:47 to go in the third quarter to make it 49-6.

After a Pelham special teams miscue, Chilton County got the ball on the Pelham 12-yard line where the Tigers would punch it in on the next play to make it 49-14 after a successful two-point conversion.

Chilton County’s final two touchdowns came on a 20-yard run by Laister and a 1-yard score from the goal line.

Coming into this season with an overall record of 3-17 at Pelham, head coach Tom Causey has made huge strides in 2017 getting the Panthers to the playoffs.

“Every year the standards and expectations change and we talked to our guys about that this summer that the playoffs was something that we expected,” Causey said. “I know our guys and coaches expected it. It’s an honor to be in the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs, I’m telling you. I’ve kind of taken that for granted over the years but to be in them is a big deal and big time accomplishment but that’s the beginning and not the end.”

With the win, Pelham improved to 4-4 on the season and 3-2 in area play.

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