GAME OF THE YEAR: Pelham gets wild 46-42 win over Chelsea

Published 12:31 am Saturday, September 22, 2018

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

 CHELSEA – In a game that featured 88 combined points, multiple lead changes and plenty of drama, Pelham held on for an incredible 46-42 win that featured two defensive stops late to earn their first region win of the season

Chelsea (0-5, 0-3) was seeking its first win of the season and made it known early they came to play.

The Hornets were aided early with the help of two penalties on the first drive as roughing the passer and a late hit was called on Pelham. Chelsea took advantage as quarterback Turner Griffin completed a pass to Lando Nichols on third-and-14 to Pelham’s 14-yard line which was followed by a 14-yard touchdown run by Collier Blair to give Chelsea a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

After struggling the last few weeks offensively, Pelham flipped a switch and put up plenty of points against the Hornets.

Pelham’s first touchdown was set up after a 46-yard run by Dylan Peterson deep into Chelsea territory. The Panthers then had their backs against the wall facing a third-and-22 after an illegal chop block but starting quarterback Matthew Rye threw a beautiful 22-yard touchdown pass on a back-shoulder throw to Edward Gipson. The extra point was blocked however as Chelsea still held a 7-6 lead.

On Chelsea’s second drive of the game, Pelham committed more penalties to help the Hornets as an unsportsmanlike and pass interference call moved the ball to Pelham’s 17-yard line.

The Hornets made them pay as Griffin threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Nichols to extend the lead to 14-6 at the end of the first quarter.

As would be the theme for the rest of the game, the score quickly changed as Rye found a wide-open Kasey Clark over the middle for a 69-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful as Chelsea held a 14-12 lead.

On the third drive of the game for Chelsea, Pelham’s defense finally kept the Hornets out of the end zone. The Hornets did convert a fourth-and-inches but couldn’t move the chains after that. This led to a 30-yard field goal try that was good to make it 17-12 Chelsea with 6:58 to go in the first half.

Following the field goal, Pelham had a chance to take the lead with a touchdown and did so as Rye threw his third touchdown of the game in the first half on a 17-yard pass to Brandon Sledge to give the Panthers its first lead of the game at 18-17 with 3:31 to go in the half.

The lead would last all of 14 seconds as Chelsea’s Ladarius Gary took the ensuing kickoff back 95-yards for a touchdown as the Hornets regained the lead 24-18.

Following the kick return for a touchdown, Pelham head coach Tom Causey opted to go with Xavier Lankford at quarterback as the Panthers have used a two-quarterback system all season.

The switch didn’t slow down Pelham’s offense as Lankford led a drive down the field and capped it off with a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 25-24 Pelham with 51 seconds until halftime.

With under a minute to work with, Chelsea ran its two-minute offense to perfection as Griffin completed a long pass to Blair deep in Pelham’s territory.

This was followed by a 27-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gibbs in the corner of the end zone as time expired in the first half. The late heave gave Chelsea a 30-25 halftime lead as both teams lit up the scoreboard in the first 24 minutes.

Pelham received the ball to start the second half as Lankford remained in the game at quarterback.

He led another impressive 66-yard drive that was highlighted by two nice runs by Clark. The final run by Clark was a 19-yard touchdown around right end that regained the lead for Pelham 32-30 with 7:33 to go in the third quarter.

Chelsea would counter the score with an impressive 80-yard drive of their own. Blair converted two third downs with nice runs with the most important being a 5-yard run to the goal line to pick up a first down. Griffin was able to punch it in on a quarterback sneak to help Chelsea regain the lead 36-32 with 2:49 left in the third quarter after the extra point was no good.

A potential turning point in the game came on the next series when Chelsea finally got a stop defensively to force a Pelham punt. However, a bad snap resulted in a turnover on downs and the Hornets took over at Pelham’s 14-yard line.

The crucial turnover turned out not to be a backbreaker for Pelham as the defense would hold Chelsea to a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. The short field goal gave the Hornets a 39-32 lead.

After a good kick return set Pelham up at the 49-yard line, Rye re-entered the game at quarterback and made an immediate impact as he tossed a 47-yard touchdown pass to Gipson for his fourth touchdown to tie the game 39-39 with 11:04 to go.

The 39-39 score was the first time the game was tied since the opening kickoff.

Following Pelham’s touchdown, it seemed as though Chelsea made another big play for a touchdown to regain the lead but a 30-yard touchdown pass from Griffin to Blair was called back for holding.

This forced a punt as Pelham regained possession with 7:11 left in the game for a chance to take the lead.

With Rye in at quarterback, he attempted to find Clark on a deep pass down the field but it was intercepted by Chelsea’s William Sullivan and returned 60-yards to Pelham’s 20-yard line.

With the switch in momentum, Chelsea had a golden opportunity to get points in the red zone but just like the last series, the Panthers defense stood tall.

Chelsea was held out of the end zone but nailed a 37-yard field goal to take a 42-39 lead with 3:53 to go in the game.

Causey credited his defense for key stops late in the game that led to the win.

“It was unbelievable,” Causey said. “In the first half, I don’t know how many yards in penalties we had but the first two drives there were four 15-yard penalties and kept their drives going and it’s hard to stop anyone. We come out in the second half and we’ve got every opportunity to roll over but our guys kept playing. We had the bad snap on the punt and we had the pick which was a bad call by me but our defense goes out on a short field and holds them to field goals. That’s the difference in the game.”

Seeing a chance to take the lead, Pelham would take advantage as the Panther sideline erupted when Rye found Sledge wide open over the middle for a 36-yard touchdown pass to cap off his impressive night through the air. The score gave Pelham a 46-42 lead with 1:44 to go in the game.

Rye finished the night 14-of-18 passing for 297 yards and five touchdowns and an interception.

Trailing by four and needing a touchdown, Chelsea was unable to move the ball down field as Pelham’s defense held the Hornets on fourth-and-15 to force a turnover on downs.

Chelsea used all three timeouts after Pelham regained possession and attempted to run out the clock.

On a last-ditch effort with 21 seconds left and no timeouts, Pelham intercepted Griffin to end the game and preserve the 46-42 win as Pelham students rushed the field to celebrate with players and coaches at the conclusion of an unbelievable football game.

“That was a great football game and I’m super proud of our kids as they never quit,” Causey said. “The same kind of opportunity tonight could’ve happened to us again like last week. Sometimes people look at records and they see 0-3 Minor coming in or Chelsea and we knew Chelsea was a good football team. They’ve played four really good teams and been beaten but they’re very close to getting that first win and I think a few more and as a coach you see that and you know that and our kids matured this week in practice and prepared for that so I’m extremely proud of our coaches and players.”

With the win, Pelham moved to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in region play.