Pelham starts fast, holds off Calera 49-41 in region opener

Pelham starts fast, holds off Calera 49-41 in region opener

By CHRIS REIN | Special to the Reporter

CALERA – After being on both the winning and losing ends of identical 28-21 scores the first two weeks of the season, Pelham’s high-powered offense exploded for 49 points and the Panthers (2-1, 1-0) held off a late Calera (1-2, 0-1) rally to earn a hard-fought Class 6A, Region 3 victory 49-41 on Friday, Sept. 4, night at Ricky Cairns Stadium.

“Give Calera credit, they never quit,” Pelham head coach Tom Causey said after the win. “We had some mistakes on the offensive side of the ball and we never put them away. We have to clean that up.”

Pelham opened the scoring with a 1-yard run by Will Lankford to take a 7-0 lead. Lankford set up the score with a scrambling 68-yard pass down the left sideline to Jake Fox.

After a big third-down sack by Zack Rushton forced a Calera punt on the ensuing possession, Pelham again found the end zone as Dylan Peterson bowled over a Calera defender on a 38-yard jaunt down the right side.

Calera answered with a long eight-play, 77-yard drive that culminated with a 30-yard pass from Tyler Nelson to Kobe Prentice to pull the Eagles to within seven. But that was as close as Calera got for the rest of the night.

After a long kickoff return by Jamal Miles set Pelham up in Eagles territory, the Panthers needed only one minute to expand the lead to 21-7. After Lankford hit Walker Lyles on a 21-yard slant to move the ball deep into Calera territory, Peterson ran untouched 26 yards through the middle of the Calera defense to give Pelham a 21-7 lead.

A Calera miscue on the ensuing kickoff gave Pelham its fourth touchdown of the quarter. After Chase Christian hustled downfield to jump on a bouncing ball at the Calera 17, Lankford found Darius Copeland on a 21-yard look-in pass, with Copeland breaking two Calera tackles to reach the end zone.

After trading a series of punts, Pelham drove to the Calera 1, but the fumble bug that bit the team last week at Oak Mountain returned, and Lankford’s option pitch bounced wide and found the arms of a Calera defender, who carried the ball out to the 13-yard line.

From there, the Eagles sustained a 13-play, 87-yard drive. Nelson again hit Prentice on 17-yard pass to the flat, and Prentice turned back inside and raced to the end zone to cut the lead to 28-14.

Pelham took over with only 1:06 left on the clock, but that proved to be two more seconds than they needed to extend their lead. Peterson ran the ball in from the Calera 8-yard line for a 35-14 halftime lead.

Calera jumped out for two quick second-half scores to again cut the Pelham lead to 7. On a scramble, Nelson flipped the ball forward to Noah Williams and the receiver raced down the sideline for a 27-yard touchdown. After a Pelham punt, Calera put together a long drive capped by Cotton’s 4-yard sprint up the sideline to make it 35-28.

But Pelham had an answer, and another Lankford keeper and Jon White’s 47-yard pick six reestablished the 21-point margin at 49-28.

But Calera refused to go away, and posted two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a 2-yard run by Chris Cotton, while Nelson again connected with his favorite target Prentice on a 30-yard pass with 10 seconds remaining. But the onside kick attempt went out of bounds, securing the victory for Pelham.

Peterson led Pelham with 10 rushes for 117 yards and three touchdowns. Lankford was 7-for-10 on the night for 161 yards and a touchdown. Lankford added another 49 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Nelson sparked Calera’s offense with 19-for-33 passing with 342 yards and four touchdowns. Prentice caught seven for 136 yards and three of the scores, while Cotton added 72 yards on fourteen carries with two touchdowns.

After its third-straight game on the road, Pelham will finally play its long-awaited home opener Friday night against Stanhope Elmore. The Mustangs from Millbrook are currently receiving votes in the 6A poll and are expected to be the top team in the region. Calera travels to Clanton next week to face Chilton County.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.