“We’re very confident in our two-minute offense,” he said. “I think we play better when we play fast.”
He has a point.
On Friday at Pete Rich Stadium, Martin led two separate two-minute drives — once before halftime, and once in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter — against a stingy Grissom defense. He capped the last one himself with a 4-yard option run to give the Panthers a 21-17 victory.
“We needed a score,” he said. “(The drill) is something we practice every week.
“Playmakers make plays. He gave me a pull read and I pulled it.”
Those two drives allowed the Panthers (2-1, 2-0) to escape on a night when they were outgained by more than 100 yards by the visiting Tigers (0-3, 0-2) and were dominated in time of possession.
“That’s about as ugly a win as I’ve ever been a part of,” Pell City head coach David Shores said. “We played with a lot of great effort; I think being at home, in front of this magnificent crowd … it was definitely an advantage for us.
“The kids played through a bad situation. I’m proud of them.”
Pell City took over near midfield with just over 2 minutes to play, after the kickoff went out of bounds at the 45-yard line.
Martin found junior Ira Burch to convert a fourth down; Burch held onto the pass despite drawing interference on the play. The junior made two more catches to set up a first-and-goal at the Tigers’ 4-yard line.
“It’s hard as a defensive coach, to defend a fast offense,” Shores said. “It makes you play more vanilla on defense. If you have some people that can make plays, you can create some open space for them to do that.”
Facing third-and-goal and a possible game-tying field goal attempt, Martin plunged the ball into the stomach of back DeMaurian Wills on an option; pulled the ball and dashed in for the deciding points.
He finished with 8 carries for 21 yards and a score on the ground to go with 12-of-27 with two touchdowns through the air.
“Last year we had playmakers making plays,” Martin said afterward. “This year we’re more of a team making plays. We all do our job. And when we execute, we’re hard to stop.”
Grissom had taken the lead on the previous possession. After spending most of the night in Pell City territory, the Tigers drove 62 yards in 9 plays to take the lead. Quarterback Thomas Hill scored from a yard out to give the visitors their first lead.
“We’re not the same old Grissom,” head coach Dale Overton said after the game. “Our kids are playing their tails off every play – they’re playing their hearts out and they’re playing with confidence.
“It’s tough to swallow. We only play about 18 kids. I can’t say enough about those 18.”
For the game, Hill rushed 13 times for 75 yards and a touchdown, and threw for an additional 162 yards on 18-25 passing, with an interception.
The Tigers were led by tailback Greg Williams, who carried the ball 13 times for 83 yards.
Pell City scored two first-half touchdowns, both coming off short fields. The first came following a Williams’ fumble, which gave the Panthers a first down at midfield.
Two plays later, Martin found senior receiver HD Fomby behind the defense for a 44-yard touchdown. The point-after by Ryan Curran made it 7-0.
Grissom answered with consecutive long drives. The first ended in a missed field goal, but after a Pell City three-and-out, the Tigers drove 68 yards in nine plays. Tailback E.J. Turner finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown to knot things at 7 with 2:18 left in the half.
That was plenty of time, it turned out.
A failed onsides kick gave the Panthers possession at their own 49-yard line. Eight plays and 80 seconds after that, Martin found Burch in the end zone; Curran’s point-after made it 14-7.
Grissom spent much of the second half threatening that advantage. A 35-yard field goal made it 14-10 after the Tigers’ first drive of the second half.
The Panthers looked to put the game away as the third quarter waned. Runs by Wills set Pell City up with first-and-goal at the Grissom 2-yard line. But a fumbled option exchange ended that drive.
Trailing by four, Grissom drove to the Panthers’ 9-yard line with 4 minutes left. After consecutive incompletions, the Tigers lined up for a field goal; Hill rolled out on the fake, only to have the pass broken up in the end zone.
Pell City went three-and-out again, setting up the Tigers’ final drive.
After the Panthers took the lead, Grissom had one more possession, but only advanced the ball to its own 34-yard line before a final desperation heave failed.
The Tigers return home to face Lee.
“I just hurt for the kids,” Overton said. “They’re playing hard and with confidence and that’s all I can ask for.”
Pell City will go back to the road to face Clay-Chalkville.
“The good thing, our team is so young,” Shores said. “They’re continuing to grow each game. They could’ve folded; we could’ve had another Hueytown. But they took that away.
“I’m very proud.”
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.