Pelham gets off to strong start with opening win over Jackson-Olin

Published 1:16 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM – The Pelham Panthers entered the 2023 season with the same goal as they have in the past: keep moving forward and improving.

Now, they have already made one improvement over last season, as the Panthers topped the Jackson-Olin Mustangs, 21-6, on Friday, Aug. 25 at J-O Field.

The two sides opened the game in a stalemate, with neither team able to gain an advantage by getting points on the board early.

That changed with two seconds remaining in the first quarter, as Clayton Mains capped off a Pelham drive with a one-yard touchdown run as the Panthers took an early 7-0 lead.

During the second quarter, the Mustangs took advantage of a great opportunity from a Pelham fumble deep in Panthers territory, and they picked it up and ran it into the end zone for a scoop and score. However, instead of tying the game, Jackson-Olin only came within one after missing the ensuing extra point.

With just over four minutes left in the first half, Mains found freshman receiver Jacob Gibbs in the field, and Gibbs took the ball in for a touchdown to increase Pelham’s lead to 14-6.

The Panthers held the 14-6 lead going into the halftime break after holding the Mustangs for the rest of the second quarter. The Pelham defense carried on their momentum from that first half finish into the second half, as the Panthers shut out Jackson-Olin for the rest of the game.

Unfortunately for Pelham, they also couldn’t put any numbers on the scoreboard for the majority of the second half.

With time running down in the fourth quarter and the Panthers driving in the Mustangs red zone, Mains’ athleticism on the ground struck again with four minutes left in the game as he tucked the ball and ran into the end zone to put Pelham up 21-6.

Then, it was up to the Panthers’ defense to finish the job, and it did just that, as coach Mike Vickery’s squad closed out the 21-6 win on the road to open the season.

Mains continued to establish himself as one of the area’s premier dual threat quarterbacks with his three total touchdowns in the game, as two came on quarterback runs and the other was in the air. Mains was 9-for 18 passing for 131 yards and earned 63 yards off eight carries.

Mike Grayson was the leading rusher for the Panthers with 92 rushing yards off 17 carries to finish just under 100 yards, while CJ Tolbert was the top receiver in the passing game with six catches and 77 yards, while Gibbs was second behind him with 56 yards off just two receptions.

Jackson-Olin also had to overcome some uncertainty and adversity in their preparation to host the Panthers, as their coach Jamaal Bess unexpectedly resigned on Tuesday, Aug. 15 due to his deployment in the Army Reserve and the Mustangs had to appoint an interim coach in short order as their season rapidly approached.

With the win, Vickery and Pelham flipped a 14-9 loss to Jackson-Olin from last year into a season opening win that they can use as momentum to propel them into another run for the region title.

Before they begin region play, the newly 1-0 Panthers will come back home to Pelham in Week 2 for their home opener against county rival Oak Mountain on Friday, Sept. 1.