By Johnny Sanders, Sports Editor
PINSON – Win and you’re in. That was the story on Thursday night as the Pinson Valley Indians hosted the Pell City Panthers in a game that, if the Indians could pull it off, would send them to the playoffs as the fourth and final seed in 6A Region 6. After a back-and-forth game that saw numerous penalties, the Indians did what they had to do in double overtime to grab that spot with a 41-38 win over Pell City.
The teams traded scores in the first half, heading into the halftime break with a score of 14-14. “We went in at halftime and we were talking about how we have shot ourselves in the foot all year,” said Coach Gentrell Eatman. “If we wanted to continue playing, we had to clean that up.”
In the first half, the Indians had 95 yards in penalties. To put it into perspective, they had 79 yards passing and 108 yards rushing in the same half. Eatman’s message must have sunk in with the kids because the penalties went down in the second half with the final tally being 16 penalties for 117 yards for Pinson.
In regulation, the teams went back and forth again in the second half. Pinson’s offense stalled late in the game, even after a gutsy fake punt call from their own 15 that set them up at around the 28. They gave the ball back to Pell City and the Panthers pounded the ball down into Pinson territory. Content with a 39-yard field goal try, the Panthers took a knee on consecutive plays from the right hash mark to set up Jake Blackstone, who had been perfect on the season to this point. Blackstone missed the field goal with four seconds on the clock to send it into overtime.
Pinson quarterback Dylan Reese found Keywone Posey on the first play of overtime to make it 35-28 Indians. Pell City answered to send it to a second overtime.
In the second period of “free football” Pell City got the ball first and drove into Pinson territory. On a third down, Cam Benefield knocked down a Nikita Getmanschuck pass to set Blackstone up for another field goal. This time, he would connect to put the Panthers up 38-35. Pinson would need an answer and they found it on a 2-yard run by Josh Woods to seal the deal and send the Indians into the playoffs.
Pinson’s Caleb Groce finished the game with 99 all-purpose yards to go with Josh Woods’ 20 rushes for 100 yards and the winning touchdown run. Quarterback Dylan Reese was 15 of 29 for 210 yards and four touchdowns.
“Hopefully we are peaking at the right time,” said Eatman.
Pinson will use a bye week to rest up for the playoffs where they will likely travel to Muscle Shoals in the first round.