Pelham locks up home field advantage with road win against Benjamin Russell

Published 11:49 pm Thursday, October 7, 2021

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

ALEXANDER CITY – Pelham’s defense stepped up in big moments on Thursday, Oct. 7, to help lift the Panthers to another key region win for the second week in a row.

Three times, Benjamin Russell got the ball back down six with a chance to take the lead late in a region game between the two teams.

But three times, Pelham’s defense stepped up.

Sophomore quarterback Gabe Benton was slammed into the grass of Martin-Savarese stadium for a fourth-and-10 sack with less than 1:30 to play, and as the quarterback fell to the ground, the Panthers not only sealed a 20-14 region win, but the two seed out of the region to earn home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Pelham quarterback William Lankford did enough first-half damage to produce a win, accumulating three total touchdowns with 155 passing yards and 68 rushing yards to help the Panthers build a lead that became insurmountable.

Lankford was key in helping the Panthers gain an early lead when he was able to lead a 50-yard drive that ended with him crossing the goal line from 6 yards out to put them on top 7-0 with 7:07 left in the opening quarter.

A quarter later, after a defensive battle for 10 minutes, Lankford added another touchdown when he took an option run 17 yards into the end zone for his second score of the night to put the Panthers up 14-0.

The senior quarterback then added his third touchdown of the first half six minutes later.

Patient in looking downfield, he found Kamari Hollis for a 15-yard touchdown. After the PAT missed, Pelham led 20-0 with 2:46 left in the half. The drive also featured a fourth-down conversion on the ground and a 45-yard pass to Jake Fox to gain some breathing room for the offense.

But the Wildcats had their chances after that.

Benjamin Russell answered quickly a minute later with Benton running in for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 20-7 going to the half.

That seemed to be the confidence boost the Wildcats needed, and it paid off coming out of the halftime break.

Benjamin Russell went 90-plus yards to start the second half, which gave the Wildcats 14 unanswered to make it 20-14 with eight minutes to play.

Penalties riddled the rest of the third quarter, while Pelham’s defense forced Benjamin Russell drives to stall time and again in the clutch.

Despite some mistakes and a lack of offensive movement in the second half, the defense helped the Panthers fend off the Wildcats to improve to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in region play.

In addition to Lankford’s performance, Gabe Gamble had 16 carries for 120 yards to lead the offense.

Defensively, Braden Marlow had eight tackles, while Seth Branham added six tackles.