Pelham falters in second half in home loss to Minor

Published 12:15 am Saturday, September 15, 2018

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

PELHAM – It was a night of missed opportunities and struggles offensively, specifically in the second half, for the Pelham Panthers as the Minor Tigers scored 15 unanswered points and held Pelham scoreless over the final two quarters to come away with a tough 28-21 victory on Friday, Sept. 14.

The loss will be a tough one going forward for Pelham as the Panthers seemingly controlled the momentum in the first half, but now face an uphill climb in the Class 6A Region 5 standings after faltering late against Minor (1-3, 1-1).

After opening the season with three straight road games, Pelham (2-2, 0-2) finally opened the gates of Ned Bearden Stadium for the first time against Minor in week four but the home crowd went home unhappy.

Pelham opted for an onside kick to open the game but the ball went out of bounds as Minor started its first offensive series at midfield.

The Tigers took advantage and drove down the field as running back Ja’vonte Vance scored from three yards out to give Minor a 7-0 lead.

However, Pelham would quickly respond as quarterback Matthew Rye helped engineer an 80-yard drive using his arm and legs. The Panthers sent wide receiver Brandon Sledge in motion as Rye hit him on the swing pass where he took it in from 10 yards out to tie the game 7-7 with 4:48 to go in the first quarter.

Rye would finish the game 6-of-8 passing for 40 yards and one touchdown. He also added 18 yards on the ground.

One major issue Pelham has faced in the first few weeks of the season is getting off the field on third downs and the Panthers defense struggled once again against Minor.

Minor quarterback Brenton White found running back Jeremiah Fuller on third-and-8 in the corner of the end zone on the Tigers second offensive possession for a touchdown. The play was reviewed to see if Fuller’s foot stayed in bounds and the call was confirmed. After a missed extra point Minor took a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Trailing by six, Pelham started the second quarter with a huge play as running back Jaylen Cook ripped off a 54-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers its first lead of the game at 14-13 less than a minute into the second quarter.

The remainder of the second quarter, Pelham’s defense forced a Minor punt and a missed 23-yard field.

Using the two-quarterback system of Rye and Xavier Lankford, it was then Lankford’s turn to take control of the offense late in the first half.

After converting a couple of third downs with throws to tight end Kasey Clark, Lankford capped off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run up the middle to give Pelham a 21-13 halftime lead.

Lankford finished the game 5-of-13 passing for 66 yards along with three rushes for 13 yards and a touchdown.

After halftime is where the troubles began for Pelham however. After a three-and-out offensively, Pelham punted to Minor as the Tigers looked to tie things up trailing 21-13.

Minor’s rushing offense got into a groove that set the Tigers up on Pelham’s 4-yard line. White then found a wide-open receiver in the middle of the end zone for the Tiger touchdown. This was followed by a successful two-point conversion which tied the game 21-21 going into the fourth quarter.

Entering the fourth quarter, Minor continued to gash Pelham’s defense on the ground as well as with third down conversions. On a third-and-four at the Panthers’ 4-yard line, White threw his third touchdown of the game to a wide-open receiver to put the Tigers ahead 28-21 with 10:16 to go in the game. It was Minor’s first lead since the end of the first quarter.

With a golden opportunity following a successful fake punt, Pelham had a costly turnover late in the fourth quarter in an attempt to tie the game and possibly send it to overtime.

A fumbled snap on first and goal from the Tigers’ 6-yard line was recovered by Minor as they kept the 28-21 lead with 5:30 to go in the game.

Pelham’s defense then forced a three-and-out, but the offense sputtered one final time and turned the ball over on downs with 2:53 to go.

Minor picked up two first downs on the ground and ran out the clock to pick up its first win of the season.

Following the game, Pelham head coach Tom Causey said he’ll have to evaluate both sides of the ball going forward.

“I don’t really know, I’ll have to watch film to figure it out but I just thought we didn’t execute on either side of the ball,” Causey said. “We had third downs and defensively needed stops and offensively we couldn’t put together a drive in the second half. We had one good drive in the second half but turned the ball over. I feel like we had them on their heels but again, I just have to do a better job. We have to do a better job of finishing drives and getting off the field on third down.”

Going forward, Causey said he believes offensively the Panthers will continue to use the two-quarterback system of Rye and Lankford if both guys continue to do what is asked of them.

“As long as they’re both preparing the way they do then yeah, both those guys do a great job for us in practice and in the games and I don’t think that’s the issue at all,” Causey said. “If one guy steps out ahead of the other one then we’ll play him more. We’re going to go back and evaluate film but I don’t think so. A lot of it is we have to do our jobs around them because we’re not getting that done right now.”

Pelham will look to get its first region win of the season on the road against Chelsea on Friday, Sept. 21.