Pelham outlasts Briarwood in second round to earn home quarterfinal match

Published 1:02 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – The atmosphere was electric at Lions Pride Stadium as the Briarwood Christian Lions and the Pelham Panthers met for the third time in 2024, this time with even bigger stakes on the line.

After Pelham took the first meeting in the sudden-death rounds of a penalty shootout, Briarwood got its revenge a few weeks later with the area title on the line.

In the end, it was the Pelham Panthers who took the rubber match 2-1 on Tuesday, April 30 behind a 62nd minute goal from Jair Camargo to seal their place in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

Pelham got its first chance of the match in the sixth minute when a loose ball ended up in front of the goal, but it didn’t lead to a score then or on the ensuing corner.

However, just a few minutes later, the Panthers capitalized and take the lead.

In the 13th minute, Elder Esquival got a chance near the top of the box, and he bent the shot into the bottom left corner of the goal to give Pelham the 1-0 lead.

Briarwood responded in a big way in the coming minutes to take the fight to the Panthers after going a goal down.

The Lions put a dangerous shot on goal in the 17th minute that forced a big save on the right side from Pelham goalkeeper Raul Jacobo.

Two minutes after that in the 19th minute, Briarwood got a free kick in the attacking end of the field, and after it sent the ball into the box, it won a penalty and its biggest chance yet to equalize.

Thomas Lanier stepped up to the spot and tried the top left corner with his penalty kick attempt, but it just ricocheted off the post. However, Quinn Corcoran crashed into the box and took a shot off the rebound to score and level the match at 1-1.

Briarwood kept up the work on offense through much of the rest of the half.

Corcoran tried to create another scoring chance in the 24th minute, but his cross was caught by Jacobo. The Lions then tried to shoot off a header in the 29th minute when Pelham stopped it.

A minute later on the other end of the field, Pelham responded with a shot to the left of the goal that went out for a corner that turned out to be unsuccessful.

Briarwood had more chances in the final five minutes of the half, including a left-veering shot that went out for a corner that produced a missed header in the 35th minute and a Carson Tucker shot with less than a minute left that was blocked by Pelham’s defense in the box.

With neither team able to break the deadlock, the teams went to the half tied 1-1.

The energy didn’t die down after the halftime break as the Lions and Panthers sought the go-ahead goal.

Shortly after halftime, Luis Bravo had a shot that was blocked in the 42nd minute.

Each team had a free kick in the opening 20 minutes of the half with Briarwood’s 52nd minute free kick going over multiple heads before going out for an unsuccessful corner kick and Pelham’s 59th minute free kick that was blocked.

However, in the 62nd minute, the Panthers won a throw-in deep in the attacking third and took an opportunity to get a shot on goal.

Pelham launched a throw into the box, and after the ball took a bounce, Jair Camargo stuck the ball and sent it into the net to score and electrify the traveling Pelham supporters.

While the Panthers possessed a 2-1 lead after the goal, Briarwood threatened to tie up the game throughout the final 18 minutes of the match as both teams got big opportunities the remainder of the way.

Jacobo was forced to make a big save in the 67th minute after a low shot made him drop to save it. After the ball ricocheted back to Briarwood and another play built up, he had to jump to make another save and preserve the lead.

In a big up-and-down sequence, Briarwood’s free kick went to the left of the box and eventually led to an easy save, but the Lions stopped Pelham on the other end and tried to get on a breakaway on the counterattack. However, Jacobo intercepted the ball ahead of the run.

A few minutes later, the Panthers earned a pair of set pieces, including a free kick in the 73rd minute that was unsuccessful and a corner kick a minute later that led to a header pass and a shot from Eduardo Ochoa that forced a save from Briarwood keeper Emerson Maughan.

The Lions got a free kick chance of their own in the 75th minute. After the cross was unsuccessful, Briarwood made a shout for a penalty, but play went on.

With the Panthers still in front by a goal, Pelham tried to see out the final five minutes, but the Lions kept pressing the attack quickly and bringing a sense of urgency to their possessions as they searched for an equalizer.

In the 79th minute, after a Pelham ball bounced around following a set piece, Briarwood went on the break, but the Panthers handled the threat.

Mere seconds later, the Lions made one last big push for a goal. Pelham dispatched multiple attempts from Briarwood during the sequence to preserve the lead.

The frantic pace only came to an end with the full-time whistle as the Panthers ran onto the field to celebrate the 2-1 win and their spot in the quarterfinals.

With the win, Pelham will host its third-round playoff game and face Northridge on Saturday, May 4 at 7 p.m. at Pelham High School.