Pelham grabs Border War Trophy with win over Thompson

Published 2:50 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2019

By SETH HAGAN | Staff Writer

ALABASTER – The Border War trophy will stay with the Pelham for at least one more season as the No. 8 Panthers took their first ever game in Warrior Stadium with an impressive 3-1 win over their county rival on Tuesday, April 9.

“Coming out not only in the beginning of the game but coming out of halftime was instrumental in us winning,” said Pelham head coach Patrick McDonald. “You know, all three goals came in the first 10 minutes of each half, so I felt like we were really grounded in a gorgeous facility like this where it’s easy to get distracted and awe struck.”

Pelham (10-7-1) came out firing from the start of the game recording goals in the fifth and eighth minutes of the first half. The first came off a corner kick as Daniel Roman was able to deflect the crossing pass with his head just enough to find the sweet spot before a Thompson defender kicked the ball into his own net in a last ditch attempt to clear the ball.

Up 1-0, the Panthers continued to press on offense. Three minutes later Eber Serrano-Tejada attempted to receive a long, over-the-top pass near Thompson’s goal, but was fouled in the penalty box resulting in a penalty kick.

The senior crushed an easy goal seconds later, as the goalie guessed wrong and leapt to the opposite side of his kick. Thompson (7-7-3, 2-2) had some opportunities, but Pelham’s back line didn’t allow a shot on goal until the latter part of the first half.

The Warriors were able to grab the momentum, as they pitched a tent in Pelham territory the last 10 minutes before halftime. They would finally break through in the 34th minute, as a foul from a Pelham defender gave Thompson a free kick above the top left of the penalty box.

The Warriors’ play worked to perfection as two players feigned a kick that froze the defense just enough to clear the way for Kevin Santana who drilled a shot past a confused Panthers squad to bring the score to 2-1.

Thompson seemed to grab the momentum before the half and had a couple more opportunities to tie the game before halftime, but went into the half down 2-1. McDonald took his team to task at halftime.

“We started to get a little winded there, we’re down a couple of players and fatigue started to set in,” McDonald said. “I challenged the bench to have a good second half and give us some good minute, and I feel like they did that and we neutralized their opportunities and they didn’t have as many chances from then on.”

The pep talk worked to perfection as Pelham scored again right out of the gate as the Panthers’ leading scorer Irvin Rodriguez once again came through in the clutch.

The senior trapped a long inbounds pass from teammate Tyler Deaver perfectly in front of the Thompson goal setting up a beautiful header for Pelham’s all-time leading scorer.

“It’s very cool that he’s scoring goals against the quality opponents,” McDonald said. “He’s scoring at the right time against the right opponents so that’s the thing. We’ll never have a hundred goal scorer at Pelham. We just spread the ball around too much, but he always comes up in the big areas, which is huge.”

The Panthers’ defense took the torch from there limiting Thompson to just two total shots in the second half with only one finding its way into the goalie’s hands.

The offense also continued to pressure the Warriors and took 11 shots in the second half. Even though the majority didn’t find the net, the time they took off the clock was invaluable.

“The back line as a whole played an outstanding game,” McDonald said. “They were challenged, Thompson at times worked us pretty hard. Our back line, they were the stars tonight. They did score a goal, but it was a near shutout.”