Oak Mountain improves to 2-0 with late score to down Pelham

By CHRIS REIN | Special to the Reporter

NORTH SHELBY – Cade George scored on a 16-yard run around left end with 3:42 remaining as Oak Mountain dropped a scrappy Pelham team Friday night on a spongy field at Heardmont Park. The Eagles improved to 2-0 on the year while Pelham dropped to 1-1.

“Both of us left it on the field,” Oak Mountain head coach Cris Bell said after the win. “I thought they played really well. Both teams played gritty; I’m just proud of our guys for stepping up. You got to be able to fight weary. Our guys stepped up and did it there at the end, so I’m awful proud of them.”

After forcing a Pelham punt on the Panthers’ first possession, Oak Mountain drove 61 yards to open the scoring. The Eagles’ option attack kept Pelham defenders focused on the ground, making Evan Smith’s 33-yard play-action pass to Noah Young even more effective. Hogan Morton’s PAT gave the Eagles an early 7-0 lead.

From there, both teams traded punts on their next five possessions, before Oak Mountain finally sustained a drive that took the Eagles to the Pelham 8-yard line. But the drive stalled when Judah Tait fumbled and Pelham recovered just 3 yards short of the end zone.

After not punting at all last week, the Panthers went three-and-out and punted on their first four possessions. On their fifth drive, they faced a fourth-and-three from their own 38, and looked set to punt again when Pelham head coach Tom Causey called for a fake. Running back Gabe Gamble took the direct snap and broke two tackles to reach the marker and sustain the drive.

From there, Pelham found its rhythm. Will Lankford finished off the 18-play, 97-yard drive when he found a diving Darius Copeland in the back of the end zone with only 38 seconds remaining in the half. As he was all night, Lankford was pressured, but stepped up into the pocket and released the 14-yard pass just behind the line of scrimmage. Salvador Jimenez’s extra point tied the score at 7-7.

With the clock dwindling, Oak Mountain drove all the way to the Pelham 16-yard line, but Oak Mountain Bell decided not to try what would have been a 33-yard field goal, and Evan Smith’s scramble ended at the Pelham 5-yard line as time expired.

After stopping Oak Mountain on a botched field goal attempt to open the second half, Pelham took its only lead of the game when Dylan Peterson sprinted around left end to put the Panthers up 14-7. Peterson appeared to score on an 83-yard run earlier in the drive, but the official ruled he stepped out of bounds at the Pelham 40.

Oak Mountain, however, answered quickly.

After quarterback Evan Smith converted a critical fourth-and-2 on the Pelham 41 with a 14-yard scamper, Tait broke through the Pelham line on an 11-yard dive to tie the game.

After forcing a quick three-and-out and a short Pelham punt into a stiff south wind, Oak Mountain regained the lead on a quick strike. Smith again found Young with a diving catch at the front pylon to put the Eagles up 21-14.

But Pelham refused to go away, and put together an answer of its own. On third-and-2 from the Panthers’ 17-yard line, Peterson stepped through the hole and outran the Oak Mountain defense to tie the game at 21-21.

After forcing another three-and-out, a short 26-yard punt into the breeze set Pelham back in Oak Mountain territory. The Panthers were driving for the go-ahead score when Gabe Gamble fumbled on the Eagles’ 16-yard line. From there, Oak Mountain drove the length of the field for the go-ahead touchdown from George with 3:42 to play.

Pelham had one last chance to answer, and again moved the ball deep into Oak Mountain territory, but Will Lankford fumbled inside the Oak Mountain 20, and the Eagles ran out the clock to seal the win.

Oak Mountain was led by 155 yards and two touchdowns through the air from Smith, while he also added 109 yards rushing on 12 carries. Tait also had a strong night on the ground with 90 yards, while Young led the Eagles with 95 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Mattox Vines, Chase Schwender and Dean Null led Oak Mountain’s defense with five tackles each.

Peterson led Pelham with 164 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while Gamble added 67 yards. Jon White led the defense with eight tackles, while Braden Marlowe added six.