Pelham falls to Homewood on last-second field goal

By CHRIS REIN | Special to the Reporter

PELHAM – J.C. Daniel’s 42-yard field goal as time expired gave Homewood a dramatic seventh-straight win over Pelham (8-2, 6-0) Friday night at Ned Bearden Stadium, denying Pelham’s bid for a program-record ninth regular season win.

The Panthers appeared to have the game won on Dylan Peterson’s 2-point conversion with 1:20 left in the game, but that proved to be just enough time for Homewood to drive down the field for the win.

Homewood benefitted from two questionable pass interference calls on their game-winning drive, including one on an uncatchable pass on fourth-and-ten from their own 36, but Pelham’s Tom Causey said that wasn’t a factor. “We didn’t do what we needed to do somewhere along the way and Homewood made the plays they needed to make and they won the football game.”

The game was a defensive struggle throughout, as Homewood’s ball-control attack kept Pelham’s explosive offense off the field, and Pelham’s bend-but-not-break defense kept Homewood out of the end zone in the first half. Homewood ran 79 plays on the night, converting eight 3rd-downs and five 4th downs, as the Panthers couldn’t get off the field when it mattered most.

Homewood’s stout defense largely contained Pelham tailback Dylan Peterson, who ran for a season-low 61 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Will Lankford was 5-11 passing for 125 yards on the night with two touchdown passes, both to Chase Christian, who finished with 68 yards receiving.

Both teams turned the ball over on downs on their opening possession, despite a 30-yard run by Dylan Peterson on a fake punt. But Jon White’s diving interception gave Pelham a short field, and two plays later Will Lankford hit Chase Christian on a 43-yard pass for the only touchdown of the first half. Salvador Jimenez’s kick made it 7-0 Pelham.

Homewood answered with a long, 15-play 58-yard drive that reached the Pelham 7, taking over seven minutes off the clock. Jaxson Drake’s pass breakup on third down forced a 23-yard field goal by J.C. Daniel to make it 7-3 Pelham.

After a quick Pelham three-and-out, Jimenez pinned the Patriots deep with a 50-yard punt. But Homewood again drove the length of the field, marching 84 yards on 16 plays to the Pelham 6. A big sack on third down by Cohen Lee pushed Homewood back to the 18, enabling linebacker Braden Marlowe to partially block Daniel’s field goal attempt as time expired to keep it 7-3 at the half.

Darius Copeland returned the third quarter kickoff 54 yards to the Homewood 31, but Pelham couldn’t advance from there and Jimenez’s 42-yard field goal attempt fell just short. Homewood answered with 15-play, 80-yard drive that took another 7:42 off the clock, culminating in quarterback Brode Susce’s 9-yard scramble to give Homewood their first lead of the night.

A reenergized Pelham offense put together a long drive of their own but stalled inside the Homewood 20, and Jimenez’s 34-yard field goal tied the game at 10.

Fabian Calderon intercepted Susce on Homewood’s next drive, but again the Panther offense was stuck in neutral, and a bad snap on an attempted punt gave Homewood the ball at the Pelham 33. Susce’s three yard quarterback-keeper put the Patriots up 17-10 with 3:13 left in the fourth.

But Pelham answered with a touchdown drive of their own, as Lankford found a wide-open Chase Christian crossing the back of the end zone from 25 yards out. Causey called time out to pull the kicking team back, and Peterson’s run on the conversion gave the Panthers a 18-17 lead. Lankford’s clutch 34-yard pass to Jake Fox on fourth-and-ten from the Panther 38 kept the drive alive.

Causey said, “We didn’t get a lot of momentum early on, on either side of the ball, but our kids bounced back in the fourth quarter and gave us a chance to win the ball game.”

Pelham will host a first-round playoff game against Lee-Montgomery next Friday night.