Turnovers cost Pelham in tight battle with No. 9 Mustangs

Published 12:41 am Saturday, October 13, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

PELHAM – Pelham’s first play from scrimmage against No. 9 ranked and undefeated Jackson-Olin was a fumble on an odd exchange and snap leading to a 40-yard touchdown return to give the Mustangs a 7-0 advantage.

While the Panthers were within six points in the final 6 minutes with a first-and-goal, that first turnover became the trend on homecoming night for the Panthers in a difficult 40-28 loss.

Coming into the game, Pelham had won three consecutive games and was rolling with a 5-2 overall record with a chance to move above .500 in region play.

After that first play from scrimmage, Pelham started to look much more like that team that had won three consecutive games on its ensuing drive.

A big reason for that shift was due to running back Dylan Peterson, who reeled off several big runs in a row for the Panthers to kickstart the drive.

That was followed by a 26-yard run from quarterback Matthew Rye to set the Panthers up inside the 20-yard line. Peterson finished the drive off with runs of 12 yards, 5 yards and a 3-yard touchdown to bring Pelham within a point of the lead at 8-7 early in the first quarter.

The Pelham defense actually settled in and played great over the next several drives, and for the most part the rest of the game.

Unfortunately, mistakes by an inconsistent offense put the defensive side of the ball in trouble for a large part of the night.

After the defense picked up a three-and-out on Jackson-Olin’s first offensive possession, the Panthers fumbled on the ensuing drive.

Pelham’s defense actually went on to force a turnover on downs during the Mustang’s next possession and followed that up with another three-and-out.

The next shift in momentum came on a Pelham punt inside the Panthers’ own 20-yard line. After a tough snap and little time to get the punt off, Jackson-Olin’s defense was able to tackle Pelham’s punter to force a turnover on downs.

The Panthers looked like they were set to answer yet another call, but on fourth-and-14 from the Pelham 18-yard line, the Mustangs broke loose on a short pass play that ended in a touchdown. Following a 2-point conversion yet again, it was 16-7 Jackson-Olin with less than 10 minutes left in the first half.

On Pelham’s ensuing possession, the Panthers faced third-and-7 from their own 17-yard line when quarterback Xavier Lankford hit his intended receiver’s fingertips before the ball found its way into the hands of a Jackson-Olin defender.

One play after a false start, the Mustangs were able to add to their lead with a 7-yard touchdown run to go up 22-7.

Pelham finally had an answer on offense on its next drive.

Peterson, who had that tremendous drive earlier in the first quarter, was injured shortly after, leaving the Panthers with just two running threats in Jalen Cook and Rye.

They stepped up on the seventh drive of the first half on back-to-back plays. On third-and-21, Cook picked up a 22-yard gain, followed by a 26-yard run from Rye and a late hit that put the Panthers in a first-and-goal situation.

Brandon Sledge then went on to finish the drive off with a short touchdown run off a pitch from Rye shortly after to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 22-14, which became the halftime score.

On Jackson-Olin’s first drive of the second half, Pelham’s defense finally had its first lapse of the game when they allowed a 27-yard touchdown run to Kason Jones one play after allowing the Mustangs to convert on a fourth-and-3.

Now down 28-14, Pelham had an answer, however.

The Panthers were able to convert two big third downs on the drive, before they finally took advantage of week pass coverage when Rye hit Gipson over the middle of the field for a 50-yard touchdown pass after the senior athlete broke one tackle before sprinting the rest of the way to cut the deficit to 28-21.

On Jackson-Olin’s ensuing drive, the Mustangs were able to convert another big fourth down, this time on a fake punt when Alvin Toney ran up the middle 50 yards untouched for another touchdown to put his team on top 34-21.

Pelham, however, was starting to click offensively and a solid kickoff return from Gipson on the ensuing kick helped the Panthers answer.

Rye hit Gipson shortly after on a big fourth-down conversion for 19 yards to keep the drive alive at one point. He then followed that off with a 4-yard touchdown run shortly after to bring the Panthers to within six points with 11:05 to play in the game.

The two teams then traded a couple of defensive stands, before Pelham got its chance to take the lead with 8:30 left.

The Panthers started the drive at their own 44-yard line and went 12 plays inside the 5-yard line.

Eventually facing third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Rye took the snap, rolled to his left and was starting to get hit when he just tried to get rid of the ball to avoid the sack.

Instead of escaping trouble, the ball found its way into the hands of Jackson-Olin defender Ahmad Williams, who went 98 yards for the pick-6 to completely turn the game around.

Pelham went from 4 yards away from tying and potentially taking the lead to trailing 40-28 with 3:59 to play.

The Panthers eventually drove to the Mustangs’ 10-yard line on the ensuing drive, but turned the ball over on downs to end the game.

Pelham is now 2-3 in region play, which has them in an interesting situation heading into a matchup with Helena on Oct. 26.

The Panthers will most likely have to win that matchup to make the playoffs, but also still have a chance at the three seed out of the region depending on Minor’s end to the season as well.

Pelham will have a non-region contest against Northridge on Friday, Oct. 19.