John Goolsby, Prep Sports Editor
PELL CITY – The Shades Valley Mounties (4-3) traveled to Pell City (0-7) and spoiled the Panther’s Homecoming, crushed Rush Propst’s playoff hopes, and came away with a huge region win.
The Mounties drove deep into Panther territory in the first quarter but the Panthers blocked a Jair Aguilar 33-yard field goal attempt.
Pell City went on a 70-yard drive, and Caleb Groce scored on a 2-yard run with 7:35 in the half to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
The Panthers then took advantage of a botched Mountie punt attempt and took over deep in Shades Valley territory.
Quincy Crawford prevented a sure score by making a spectacular defensive play by batting down a pass with his left hand as he fell to the turf.
The Mountie defensive line smothered the Panther offense inside the five-yard line and forced a field goal attempt that defensive lineman Johnny Steele blocked.
On the next play, Mountie quarterback Steve Brown scored on a 70-yard TD run. Aguilar’s PAT was good, and the game was tied at 7 apiece with 3:57 remaining in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Groce scored on a 90-yard kickoff return and Pell City led 14-7 with 3:44 remaining in the half.
The Mounties drove to the Panther 30-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the half.
Three questionable calls by the officials kept the Mounties from scoring.
Brown’s 23 yard run to the eleven was called back for holding.
Brown hit Ji’Quez Daniels for a thirty-yard completion to the five-yard line, but the play was called back because of an illegal procedure penalty.
With nine seconds remaining, a 30-yard completion to Armon Goldsby to the 9-yard line was called back for another illegal procedure.
The Mounties failed to score and went to the locker room trailing 14-7.
The Mounties kicked off to start the second half. Jakob Tucker was hit hard and had the ball stripped by Crawford, who returned it 30 yards for a score to tie the game at 14-14 after Aguilar’s PAT.
Ethan Johnson came up with an interception on the next series, and Valley took over on their own 32.
The Mounties turned the ball back over, and the Panthers were in business at the Valley 32.
Johnson then came up with a Panther fumble on the next play and the Mounties took over on their own 45-yard line.
A few plays later, Brown connected with Christian Gorman for a 28-yard completion to the Panther 26-yard line with a little over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Mounties moved the ball to the two-yard line but were forced to attempt a field goal.
Aguilar drilled a 21-yarder with three minutes remaining in the third to give Valley a 17-14 lead.
Pell City mounted a drive, and Dejan O’Neil scored on an 18-yard run to give the Panthers a 21-17 lead with eleven seconds remaining in the third period.
Later in Shades Valley’s next drive, the Mounties faced a crucial third down with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Brown found Daniels for a crucial 14-yard catch to move the chains and keep the drive alive.
Three plays later, Daniels made a one-handed catch for a 14-yard touchdown to give the Mounties a 24-21 lead with 9:21 remaining in the game.
The two teams traded punts over the next two possessions.
The Panthers, working with a short field, drove to the Mountie 32-yard line, but the Valley defense buckled down and forced a turnover on downs with 1:24 remaining in the game.
Pell City had two time-outs remaining and forced a third down with three yards to go with 1:11 remaining.
Brown took the snap and ran behind center Julian Maddox to pick up the first down.
The Mounties took a knee, ran the clock out, and turned their thoughts to Pinson Valley.
The Mountie defense dominated the Panther offensive line. Valley held a Pell City team that rushed for over 300 yards against #9 Oxford last week to 86 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
“I’m proud of the way our Shades Valley guys played tonight,” said Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson. “I’m proud of the coaches for having them ready to play.”
“I want to thank Coach Propst, his guys and Pell City for allowing us to come down and play ball.”
Brown had a big night for the Mounties through the air and on the ground. ‘I trusted what coach called,” Brown said. “I executed to the best of my ability and the team executed to theirs.”
The Mounties host Pinson next Friday in a region matchup with playoff implications.