GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — One thing was clear, one team’s losing skid was going to end on Friday night at Memorial Field.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils — who were celebrating Homecoming — it was visiting Fairland that ended its 15-game slide with a 49-34 Ohio Valley Conference victory.
The Dragons (1-5, 1-2 OVC) scored on the game’s opening drive, as sophomore quarterback Joel Lambiotte broke a 60-yard run for a touchdown.
Gallia Academy (0-6, 0-3) came up empty on its first drive of the game, but the Blue Devil defense then forced an FHS punt to keep the deficit at six.
The Blue Devils methodically marched down the field — covering 92 yards in 17 plays — and sophomore quarterback Justin McCelland connected with classmate Cory Call for a 10-yard touchdown pass to cap off the series. GAHS senior Ty Howell kicked home the extra point and gave the Blue Devils a 7-6 lead with 8:20 left in the first half.
The Blue Devil defense forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing Fairland possession, and the GAHS offense set up shop at the FHS 49. Gallia Academy picked up a pair of first downs and was at the FHS nine-yard line, before the drive stalled out and Fairland took over at its own 21.
On the first play of the FHS drive, Keedrick Cunningham broke a 79-yard run for six points, giving the Dragons a 12-7 lead headed into the half.
The Blue Devils were forced to punt on their first drive of the second half, giving FHS the ball on its own 20. Despite three 10-yard penalties on the drive, the Dragons covered the 80 yards needed in just nine plays. Chase Fisher capped off the FHS drive with a four-yard run, making Fairland’s lead 18-7 with 5:51 left in the third quarter.
Next, GAHS went three-and-out and punted back to Fairland, which set up its offense at the FHS 34. After a pair of lengthy first down runs by Cunningham, Lambiotte connected with Greg Keeney for a 25-yard scoring pass, making Fairland’s lead 24-7 with 3:39 left in the third.
The Blue Devils turned to McCelland to carry the load on the next drive, and he was up to the task. The sophomore signal caller completed 2-of-3 passes on the drive for 39 yards, while rushing seven times for 25 yards. The final play of the series was an 11-yard touchdown pass from McCelland to Colton Campbell, which cut the deficit to 24-13 with 11 seconds left in the third period.
On the first play of the ensuing FHS drive, Dragons senior Seth Clay broke a 57-yard run for a touchdown, that — with Trenton Baumgard’s extra point kick — gave the guests a 31-13 advantage with one quarter to play.
GAHS looked to be out of luck after just three plays on the first drive of the fourth quarter, but a roughing the punter penalty extended the drive. Gallia Academy eventually turned the ball over on downs, giving Fairland possession at the FHS 49.
After a first down run, Fairland fumbled the ball away and the Blue Devils took over on their own 45. On the sixth play of the ensuing drive, McCelland found Wyatt Sipple for a nine-yard scoring pass, with 7:32 remaining in regulation. McCelland also completed the two-point conversion pass to John Stout, cutting the deficit to 31-21.
However, Fairland hit quickly again, as Cunningham took the handoff on the first play of the next drive 56 yards to the endzone.
Gallia Academy was intercepted on its next drive, but forced and recovered a Fairland fumble just three plays later, giving the hosts possession at their own 33.
The Blue Devils lost possession on downs after just four plays, but the Dragons lost another fumble on their first play from scrimmage. However, GAHS couldn’t take advantage, giving the ball back to FHS after just four plays.
The Dragons scored on the first play of the next series, this time on a 24-yard run by Reilly Sowards.
Trailing 43-21, the Blue Devils found some big-play magic of their own, as — on the fourth play of the drive — Sipple broke a 53-yard touchdown run. Howell’s kick gave cut the FHS lead to 43-28 with 1:49 remaining.
Fairland was content to run out the clock, taking a knee on their first play of the ensuing series, but GAHS called a timeout to keep the game going. That timeout came back to haunt the Blue Devils, as on the very next play, Cunningham broke a 45-yard touchdown run.
With just 16 seconds left, Sipple scored on a 49-yard touchdown run, putting the final touches on Gallia Academy’s 49-34 loss.
For the game, Fairland outgained GAHS 580-to-441, including 458-to-305 on the ground. Gallia Academy’s 24 first downs were nine more than what Fairland earned. The Blue Devils fumbled three times, but never lost possession, while Fairland lost 3-of-4 fumbles. The Dragons were penalized 11 times for 99 total yards, while GAHS was sent back seven times for 47 yards.
McCelland — who was 16-of-38 passing for 136 yards with three touchdowns — also led the Blue Devils on the ground with 149 yards on 30 rushing attempts. Sipple ran nine times for a total of 119 yards and two scores, while catching four passes for 38 yards and one TD. Cade Roberts ran three times for 27 yards, while Quinton Yarger added 10 yards on five attempts.
Call led all GAHS receivers with 41 yards and one score on five receptions. Garrett Burns caught three passes for 23 yards, Stout hauled in two passes for 29 yards, while Campbell had one 11-yard TD reception. Brody Thomas recovered three fumbles and recorded one sack to lead the GAHS defensive effort.
Cunningham had 276 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries to lead FHS, while catching one pass for one yard. Lambiotte — who finished with 52 yards and one TD rushing — was 4-for-4 passing for 67 yards and one TD, while Isaiah Howell — who caught one pass for 28 yards — completed 1-of-1 pass attempts for 55 yards.
Clay — who pulled in the game’s lone interception for FHS — finished with 99 yards and one score on seven carries. Sowards hauled in one pass for 55 yards and ran once for a 24-yard score. Fisher had 15 yards on six carries and caught one 13-yard pass in the win. Keeney caught one 25-yard scoring pass in the win.
With its first victory since 2014, Fairland earned the Old Coal Bucket Trophy, a traveling trophy that’s painted half blue and half green that FHS and GAHS will play for every season, starting this year.
GAHS will try to snap its eight-game skid on Friday, when the Blue and White visit 4-1 Coal Grove.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.
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