Spain Park ends 2022 season with win against Pelham

Published 10:47 pm Thursday, October 27, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

PELHAM – Behind three interceptions, including a pick-six in the second half, the Spain Park Jaguars were able to send the seniors off with a win and help young players gain confidence for the future in a 35-14 road victory against Pelham on Thursday, Oct. 27.

“I’m happy for the kids,” head coach Tim Vakakes said after the win. “The seniors man, it’s been a heck of a year, I wish I could have done some things different and put them in better positions sometimes. I take the blame for a lot of those losses. These seniors, it’s not a big group, I have a lot of respect for them. A lot of the kids have left Spain Park. So these kids, these seniors, I told them the first time I met them, I have a lot of respect for them because they’re still here and they love Spain Park. I’m glad they can go out tonight with a win.”

The Jaguars used 28 consecutive points to break a 7-7 tie in the first quarter, using a third-quarter pick-six from Arnold Bush to grab a three-touchdown lead before eventually extending the advantage to 35-7 that became insurmountable.

“We hadn’t really been good on takeaways all year, but tonight they were,” Vakakes said of the defense’s interceptions. “Defensive coaches, they never gave up on these kids, we were still swinging.”

The game started with a powerful drive from Spain Park, who used more than 7 minutes of clock to march down the field behind several physical plays. The Jags capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone from Evan Smallwood.

Pelham, however, capitalized on an early mistake from the Jags shortly after.

After being forced into a three-and-out, the Panthers had to punt on their opening drive, but a muffed kick by the Spain Park returner was recovered by Pelham.

The Panthers quickly took advantage thanks in particular to a very physical run from quarterback Clayton Mains. He carried several Jaguar defenders on his back for close to 25 yards to set up first-and-goal from the Spain Park 7.

One play later, he hit Kamari Hollis with a bullet for a 7-yard touchdown that evened the score 7-7.

Spain Park the responded by bringing in promising freshman quarterback Brock Bradley, who quickly made his mark with a 23-yard rollout touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jonathan Bibbs. The pass just went over the defender’s hands and into the arms of Bibbs for the go-ahead touchdown.

Leading 14-7, the Jags then stepped up defensively with back-to-back interceptions on Pelham’s next two drives that ultimately led to a seven-point lead at the half.

Then, the start to the second half was more than ideal in helping them pull away.

The defense started with a three-and-out, which quickly led to the offense going on a strong 10-play drive that was capped off by a Derick Shanks touchdown run to make it 21-7.

On the ensuing drive, Mains was rolling out to his left when pressure caught up to him and forced an errant throw that found its way to Bush, who sprinted the other way up the sideline for a pick-six that made it 28-7 with 1:55 left in the third quarter.

The Jags then tacked on one final score early in the final quarter when Smallwood found Reggie Jackson wide open for what became an 80-yard touchdown to make it 35-7.

Pelham did put together one last scoring drive shortly after thanks to a strong rushing attack, which saw success at times throughout the night.

This time, it was Ra-Sen Martin getting it done with a powerful touchdown run from inside the 10-yard line that created the final score.

For Vakakes, he was proud of the foundation his seniors have set for the younger players, who will now enter the offseason with some momentum.

“These seniors have laid a heck of a foundation for these kids and we have a lot of good players coming up,” he said. “Our future is bright here and we owe a lot to these seniors. Anytime you win a game, obviously they’re hard to come by and the way we’ve lost some games this year has been brutal.”

Vakakes said the goal for his team going into next year is to be a heavyweight and finish games.

Pelham will now gear up for a playoff matchup with Northridge at home on Friday, Nov. 4.

It will be a reunion for current Pelham head coach Mike Vickery, who left Northridge in the offseason to take over the head coaching job with the Panthers. Pelham will enter the playoffs at 5-5, while Northridge will finish its season tomorrow night.