Oak Mountain uses 2nd half surge to shutout Pelham

Published 10:50 pm Friday, August 27, 2021

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

PELHAM – Missed opportunity after missed opportunity had both Oak Mountain and Pelham pondering what to do at the half of a tie 0-0 game between the county rivals on Friday, Aug. 27, but one team had an answer.

One week after outscoring Chelsea 33-6 in the second half, the Oak Mountain Eagles found a way to flip a switch once again and outscored the Panthers 21-0 in the second half to pull off a 21-point win.

“It means the world, I love this place,” Crane said speechless and exhausted after the game. “Our kids are just buying into what we tell them. We’ve got great kids, we’ve got athletic kids and just give them a chance to be successful. They just want somebody to believe in them, and dadgummit, that’s what we’re going to do.”

The two teams were forced to overcome first-half woes, however, after both had several opportunities squandered in the first 24 minutes of the game.

Oak Mountain’s first drive went into Pelham territory, but a false start forced third-and-14 and eventually a punt.

The Panthers then followed with a drive to the Oak Mountain 35-yard line before they were forced into a fourth down and attempted a fake punt that didn’t work.

The Eagles then quickly gave it back to Pelham, who looked ready to strike with a 15-play drive that went into the second quarter featuring 10 runs, but the Panthers eventually had a pass tipped away in the end zone on fourth-and-5 from the 19-yard line, leading to a turnover on downs.

Oak Mountain then looked to go on a long drive to find points, but after overcoming a holding penalty with a 25-yard pass from Evan Smith to Joseph Regan, the Eagles fumbled the ball and gave it back to the Panthers with 4:58 to play in the half.

Pelham again had a chance on the ensuing drive, getting into Oak Mountain territory, but the Panthers were eventually forced to punt on fourth-and-6, which ultimately ended a scoreless half of missed opportunities.

But the Eagles came out with a different mindset in the second half.

After forcing a turnover on downs to start the half, the Eagles put together two quick explosive plays on a 23-yard pass from Smith to Cade George, then a 12-yard run from Smith.

Then, Smith picked up a fumble and ran 9 yards two plays later before Trey Vassell put the first score on the board with 6:04 left in the third quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run.

“It’s just a mindset. You know, it’s the same thing we said at halftime. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot and take advantage of the opportunities they give us,” Crane said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be alright, and that’s what I told them.”

And that mindset continued throughout the second half on both sides of the ball.

The Eagles’ defense forced a quick three-and-out, while a kick-catch interference gave Oak Mountain the ball at the Pelham 31-yard line.

Oak Mountain put together an eight-play drive from there to score on a 1-yard touchdown from Smith.

All of a sudden, the Eagles led 14-0 going to the fourth quarter.

Pelham quickly gave it back once again, which put them in the position of needing a quick stop.

The Panthers forced third-and-11 for Oak Mountain in Eagles’ territory, but Smith busted his biggest run of the game for 46 yards and a first down.

One play later, Vassell toted in his second touchdown of the half from 11 yards out for a 21-0 lead.

That became plenty of cushion with Oak Mountain’s defense playing lights out.

“They’re playing hard every snap, 11 guys to the football and alignment assignment. That’s it. That’s our defense,” Crane said after the win.

Smith finished 5-of-11 passing for 69 yards with 66 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Vassell added 76 yards on the ground with two touchdowns on 13 carries.

George finished with two receptions for 30 yards and Regan one catch for 25 yards.

Gamble and Lankford combined for 88 yards on the ground to lead the offense, but the Panthers only totaled 184 yards in the loss. They are now 1-1 on the season.