Chelsea scores school record 64 points to beat Pelham for 4th straight win
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
CHELSEA – Any offensive question marks surrounding the Chelsea Hornets can officially be put to rest. Following 32 and 42 points in their last two games, respectively, the Hornets posted a school record 64 points in a 64-38 victory over the Pelham Panthers on Friday, Sept. 20, to win their fourth consecutive game.
The Hornets, who were 0-5 at this point last year, put up 50 points in the first half and another 14 in the second half to put away the Panthers for their fourth consecutive win, which helped them improve to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in region play to remain atop the region standings.
“Really, last year as we progressed through the season, we felt like we were getting better,” Chelsea head coach Dustin Goodwin said. “I think this run is a testament to last year’s senior class. Finishing the season the way we did last year helped us carry some momentum into this season and has allowed us to hopefully be a playoff team. We did good things in all three phases. It’s good to get a win even though there is still some stuff to work on.”
Through the first four games of the season, it was the defense giving up an average of 12 points per game that was key in the early-season success, but this time around, it was a record-setting performance on offense.
The impressive showing saw running back Collier Blair go over 100 yards for the third consecutive week with 173 yards, while also adding two rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Caleb Moore also had one of his best performances of the season with 135 passing yards and a touchdown, while Michael Gibbs was the go-to receiver with 82 receiving yards and a touchdown.
“We’re clicking a little bit,” Goodwin said. “It all starts with those guys up front. They’re not busting assignments and are doing their job. That’s helped Collier and others have special games by getting the ball where it needs to go.”
A combined 78 points in the first half featured 28 points from Chelsea off a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, two fumbles leading to Chelsea touchdowns and a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Pelham’s two fumbles came on the first play of each drive right after the Hornets had scored a touchdown, which led to a total of a 14-point swing and a quick hole
Aside from those game-changing plays, the Hornets also got 106 yards and two touchdowns on the ground from Blair on just 11 carries in the half, while Moore hit Gibbs on a 32-yard flea flicker.
“We knew the potential of a high scoring game was there, but it’s not what we expected,” Goodwin said. “We were just fortunate enough to get some plays on special teams and defense that turned into points early, but we knew it was going to be a dog fight from the get go. Coach (Tom) Causey does a great job.”
Causey did keep his team focused, and it led to some big plays in the first half.
Trailing 15-0, Pelham’s first touchdown came on an 89-yard touchdown run from Gabe Gamble directly up the middle to cut into the Hornets’ early lead.
Chelsea, however, got a 91-yard punt return from LaDarius Gary shortly after to extend the lead, and then on the first play of the next drive, William Berryman scooped up a fumble and took it to the house for a quick 14-point swing.
Pelham answered on a 75-yard touchdown pass to Walker Lyles up the middle of the field to cut the deficit to two scores again.
The two traded touchdowns following that, which saw Chelsea ahead 36-21 with 4:22 to play in the opening half.
But the final blow of the half came when the Hornets scored on the 32-yard flea flicker form Moore to Gibbs, followed by the blocked punt from Jordan Thomas, which put the Hornets on top 50-21 with 1:26 to play in the half.
Pelham answered to close out the half thanks to a 40-yard pass from Xavier Lankford to Darius Copeland, followed one play later by a Lankford 4-yard rushing touchdown as time expired.
But even with that late answer, Chelsea still led 50-28 at the break.
Pelham went on to have chances early in the second half, putting together two nice drives. One of those drives, however, ended in a fumble at the Chelsea 1-yard line, while the other saw the Panthers get a first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line before a penalty and sack held them to a field goal.
Instead of 14 points, Pelham only got three on the board and Chelsea capitalized shortly after with an 8-yard touchdown run from Adam Reaves, who ended the night with two touchdowns for the second week in a row.
Up 57-31 with 11:38 to play, Chelsea had closed the door as each team added one more score each.
Pelham was led by Langford, who posted 65 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 carries, while completing 11 of his 23 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown.
Lyles posted four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown, while Gamble added 153 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.
Chelsea will now go into its bye week at 4-1 (3-0) with matchups against Helena, Homewood and Minor to close out region play in consecutive weeks following the bye.
Pelham (0-5, 0-3) will travel to Class 7A Oak Mountain next week for a matchup with the 1-3 Eagles.
Chelsea stats contributed by Mark McLaughlin