“I have been a part of three state championship,” Pell City head coach David Shores said. “I have won two and I have lost one. I don’t know if any of those three games were bigger than this one, especially with a win. With the team we got nobody expected us to do a whole lot. We have six senior starters out there and I am so proud of their effort.”
After holding Oxford on fourth and eight, the Panthers took over at their own 40 yard line with 9:18 left in the game. Austin Martin led the Panthers 60 yards down the field on a drive that took just over six minutes off the clock. After getting sack on third down at the Oxford 27 yard line the Panthers decided to go for it on fourth down. With a defender coming straight up the middle on the line, Martin was about find Casey Bishop cutting across the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 34-21 lead with 2:59 left in the game.
“We don’t like Oxford and that is not a surprise to anybody,” Martin said. “To beat them and to beat them the way we did is just amazing. I thought we were about to punt on fourth down and they just basically said look we have one play to win the game. They called the play, a pass to Casey, who is my idol. I think I got hit when I threw it, I really don’t remember. I saw him catch it and I knew it was good.”
The Yellow Jackets drove 65 yards down the field for a touchdown. William Webber capped off the drive with 13-yard touchdown pass to Racen Thomas. The PAT was good to cut the Panthers lead to 34-28.
Oxford went for the onside and recovered it the Pell City 49 yard line with 23 seconds left in the game.
Oxford used the hook and ladder play to Thomas for a 24 yard gain down to the Pell City 25-yard line with 10 seconds left in the game. After a time out, Webber threw two incomplete passes, which included the last one that was nearly picked off as the final horn sounded.
“Coach Shores and their bunch played their butts off,” Oxford head coach John Gross said. “We played extremely hard and we played well. At the end of the year, I think their one of the two best teams in the region. I think they are very deserving. They play a good scheme, they did a good job of coaching, the kids played hard, their physical and our kids did the game thing.”
The Panther started the game out fast. Ira Burch gave the Panthers good field position at the Oxford 42 yard line. On the first play of the drive, Martin rolled out to the right and found HD Fomby for a 42-yard touchdown. The PAT was good to give Pell City a 7-0 lead.
The Panthers got the ball back deep in Oxford territory after Thomas was taken down trying to run for the first down on a fake punt. The Panthers were able to capitalize on the drives as Ryan Curran missed a 35-yard field.
The Yellow Jackets took advantage. Webber found Jarrius Orr for a 42-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
On their next possession, Thomas showed why he is one the best in the nation. The junior took the handoff and broke to the left side where he was able to break nine tackles for a 59-yard touchdown. Thomas had 132 yard on 11 carries in the first half.
The game was tied at 14 going into halftime.
Thomas opened the third quarter with a 57-yard touchdown run to give Oxford a 21-14 advantage.
Pell City responded with a 62-yard drive for a touchdown. Burch scored from 5-yards out around left end to tie the game up at 21-21.
Thomas had well over 200 yard rushing, but the play of the game came when he was stripped and it wasrecovered by the Panthers.
“He was a little gimped up too,” Shores said. “I don’t know if he tweaked his ankle in the first half to slow him down. This game is about being physical. It is one of the last true contact sports. It takes a certain breed. The old cliché it is a tough game for touch people. I have a tough bunch of kids. Week in and week out we have seen guys carted off the field on the other side. Our little butts keep plucking away and they are in great shape. The work ethic has been phenomenal.”
Burch recorded 32 yard rushing and 30 yards receiving on the drive. He also sent three Oxford defenders to the sideline with injuries. The junior scored from 6-yards out to give the Panthers a 28-21 lead.
Pell City will host Tuscaloosa County next Friday in their regular season finale.