Pelham downs Stanhope to improve to 3-1

By CHRIS REIN | Special to the Reporter

PELHAM – It’s rare for a team to have its home opener, senior night and a battle for the top spot in the region all on the same night, but the Panthers achieved the trifecta on Friday, Sept. 11 at Ned Bearden Stadium.

After completing a three-game road trip to open the season, and honoring the Class of 2021 in a pre-game ceremony, Pelham (3-1, 2-0) outlasted Stanhope Elmore (2-2, 1-1) to move atop the standings in Class 6A, Region 3, earning an important head-to-head tiebreaker as the battle for a region championship heats up.

“I thought our kids did exactly what we asked them to do. We tried to shorten the game, play a 48-minute game,” Pelham head coach Tom Causey said. “We knew they were very talented and had playmakers at a lot of spots… I really proud of the way our kids played tonight. The worked their tail off and they deserved the win.”

For the second week in a row, Pelham used a big first quarter to build a comfortable lead. Gabe Gamble carried all four times on the opening drive, scoring on a 29-yard run off right tackle to put the Panthers up 7-0. After a Fabian Calderon pass break up on third down, Pelham got the ball back and drove 60 yards for its second score. Quarterback Will Lankford hit Walker Lyles on a 17-yard quick slant to make it 14-0 Panthers halfway through the first quarter.

Stanhope Elmore answered with a 51-yard strike, with Tre Killingsworth hitting a streaking Teddy Harris up the right sideline, but Pelham tipped the extra point wide to keep it at 14-6.

After a squibbed kickoff set Pelham up in Mustang territory, Will Lankford made a perfect decision on the read option, pulling the ball back and angling left 31 yards to the front pylon. Salvador Jimenez’s third extra point of the quarter made it 21-6.

From there both defenses stepped up to keep it scoreless the rest of the half. After a Jimenez punt pinned the Mustangs at their own 2, the Mustangs drove 79 yards in 8:25, but Jacob Bryan’s field goal attempt fell short, allowing Pelham to run out the clock to end the half.

On the first drive of the second half, Killingsworth again found Harris on a deep strike, this time from 75 yards out to pull within 8. But Pelham answered with a big play of its own, as Dylan Peterson broke through the line and went untouched 55 yards to the end zone to give Pelham a 28-13 lead.

After a Jimenez punt pinned the Mustangs on their own 9, the visitors drove the length of the field, aided by two pass interference calls. On fourth down, Harris carried the ball in from the 2-yard line, but another missed PAT kept it at 28-19.

After an exchange of punts, Dylan Peterson scored his second touchdown on a 6-yard run finished off a six-play, 65-yard drive and extended the lead to 35-19.

With 5:21 left in the fourth, Killingsworth and Harris connected on their third touchdown of the night from 27 yards out, as the ball went right through the arms of a Pelham defender, but an incomplete pass on the 2-point try kept it a two-score game.

After the Mustangs forced a Pelham punt, Jon White had a game sealing interception for the second week in a row, and the Panthers ran out the clock to clinch the win.

Both Pelham running backs went over the century mark on the night. Peterson finished with 182 yards on 20 carries and two scores, with a third called back by penalty, while Gamble added 106 yards on 13 carries. Lankford was only 2-4 passing for 28 yards but added 40 more yards on the ground.

Stanhope Elmore running back Antonio Trone was the workhorse for the Mustangs, carrying the ball 21 times for 126 yards. Killingsworth finished 7-of-16 for 172 yards and three scores, all to Harris. The Mustang athlete had four catches for 157 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed five times for 32 yards and the fourth Mustang score.

Pelham will go back on the road for the fourth time in five games with a short trip to Helena to face its main rival next Friday night. Causey said, “It’s the next region game. Coach Busby and that staff have done a fantastic job since they’ve been at Helena. They beat us pretty good over there last year, and we’ll work like crazy this week to try to get ready for them.”