Pelham soccer team downs rival Helena, advances to Final Four

Published 3:05 pm Sunday, May 8, 2022

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

PELHAM – For the third year in a row and sixth time in the last seven years, the Pelham boys soccer team is headed to the Final Four of the Class 6A playoffs.

Taking on rival Helena Saturday, May 7, the Panthers were able to overcome a 1-0 deficit early in the game by scoring three unanswered goals to pick up a 3-1 victory against the Huskies.

With the win, Pelham continued a seemingly annual tradition of punching a ticket to Huntsville for a chance to claim a title.

Helena took an early 1-0 advantage in the game, as the Huskies entered the matchup looking for redemption after two heartbreaking one-goal losses to the Panthers in area play this year.

The Huskies fell 2-1 to Pelham on March 23 and then 1-0 on April 14.

Now, they led 1-0 early in this matchup after a corner kick ended with a Cesar Gonzalez goal 23 minutes into the game.

Pelham, however, has been a team known for defense throughout the year, and from that point forward, the Panthers settled in on the back half of the field by limiting pressure the remainder of the game and keeping Helena out of the goal the rest of the way.

With that, Pelham had to find success on the offensive end, but thanks to controlling the ball, that wasn’t much of an issue.

The Panthers found the equalizer eight minutes after Helena’s goal to tie the game at 1-1.

Then, very quickly, Pelham was able to take the lead two minutes later after a deflection off the Helena keeper ended with a Fabian Calderon header for a 2-1 lead heading into the break.

In what was still a tight game, however, it wasn’t until late in the second half that the dagger came.

Still down by one, Helena was looking for a spark and an equalizer of its own, but Pelham was able to find one more goal off a corner kick with 17 minutes left when Matthew Chaux headed in a corner for the second time in the game for the Panthers.

From there, the uphill climb became too much for the Huskies, as Pelham’s defense continued a stellar season finishing off the two-goal victory.

KJ Godwin had six saves in the win for Pelham, while Grant Lavercombe saved 13 shots for the Huskies during a busy night in goal.

Coming into the playoffs, Pelham had eight consecutive shutouts, and while that shutout streak was snapped in the first game of the playoffs with one goal given up, the Panthers have now given up just one in each of their first two games of the postseason to earn a spot in the Final Four.

They have now given up one goal or less in 24 of their 26 games this season, while the Panthers will enter the Final Four with 10 consecutive wins and wins in 19 of their last 20 with that lone non-win a tie against 7A Spain Park.

Pelham will now take on McGill-Toolen in the semifinals on Friday, May 13 at 11 a.m. in Huntsville. If they win, they’ll advance to the state championship a day later.

The top-five battle will mark a chance at redemption for the No. 3 Panthers, who fell to No. 5 McGill-Toolen 3-2 in last year’s Final Four.