PELHAM — The Pelham Hornets defeated archrival Mitchell County 34-13 Friday night in Pelham to complete the first perfect 10-0 season in the history of Pelham High football and give the Hornets their second region championship in three years.
It was a near perfect night for Pelham to complete its perfect season, as rain moved out and cooler temperatures moved in. However, the rain from earlier in the day left its mark as the wet conditions led to numerous fumbles and players slipping and sliding on the wet grass. Turnovers had a huge impact on the game for the Eagles, as the Hornets recovered three fumbles and Pelham’s Kendrick Patterson picked off three interceptions.
Early in the game, it looked as though it was going to be all offense and lots of scoring, as the teams went back and forth down the field. In fact, the Hornets scored twice in the first three minutes of the game. Though the game had an inauspicious beginning for Pelham, with a player slipping on the kickoff and recovering his own fumble at the 15, the Hornets marched quickly to midfield. From there, Patterson broke loose for his first touchdown of the night with a 50-yard run.
On Mitchell County’s first play on offense, quarterback James Thomas dropped back for a pass, Patterson intercepted and took it all the way to the 1-yard line. Senior running back Javoris Williams scored for the Hornets three plays later.
Things changed for Mitchell County on the next possession. Facing a fourth-and-2 from the 44, James Thomas got a little bit of payback. With the Hornets lined up to stop a presumed short-yardage play, Thomas raced around the right side of the line all the way to the end zone and the Eagles closed the gap to 14-7.
The playing conditions reared their head after that score, as there were three turnovers in a row.
Patterson picked off his second pass of the night to stop the Eagle offense, and Pelham fumbled to give the Eagles possession. The Eagles immediately fumbled, though, to give Pelham possession again.
The offenses — literally — bogged down for a brief period, and after a Pelham punt, the Eagles fumbled again and sophomore defensive end Davion Rhodes recovered to give the Hornets possession at the 17. Two plays later Williams scored his second touchdown.
Up 21-7, the Hornets went for the kill by trying to take possession again with an onside kick, but the Eagles picked it up and scored when senior Malik Barnes busted through the Hornet defense for a 27-yard touchdown run.
Down 27-13 after another Williams touchdown, the Eagles marched quickly down the field as the end of the half neared. The Eagles had first-and-goal inside the Pelham 5-yard line, but could not get through the Hornet defense. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, QB Thomas slipped on the wet ground and fell, and the Hornets took the two-touchdown lead into the half.
Both teams had opportunities in the second half, but there was no scoring until very late in the game when Hornet senior Treun Pace scored on a 17-yard run to put up the final tally.
Pelham normally uses the passing game frequently with the arms of Kendrick Patterson and Darrell Starling, but in this game the Hornets moved almost exclusively running the ball. Pelham piled up 416 yards on the ground, easily their largest total of the season. Williams racked up 165 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead the Hornets. Patterson added 123 yards on 18 carries, and Pace took the ball for another 67 yards and a touchdown. The Hornets were without senior fullback Malik Mango due to an injury, but Mango is expected to return for the playoffs.
Both teams advance to the state playoffs.