GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — All’s well that ends well.
The Gallia Academy football team picked up its first victory of the season and its first-ever Ohio Valley Conference gridiron victory on Friday night at Memorial Field, as the Blue Devils claimed a hard-fought 40-24 decision over visiting South Point, in the season finale.
Neither offense started out firing on all cylinders as the first 22 minutes of play passed without a score. The Pointers (0-10, 0-7 OVC) came within two yards of the endzone early in the second quarter, but the Blue Devil (1-9, 1-6) defense stood tall, forcing a turnover on downs.
Gallia Academy put up the game’s first points with 1:19 left in the first half, as sophomore Justin McClelland found classmate Cory Call for an 81-yard touchdown pass. The extra-point kick was missed, and the Blue Devils had a 6-0 lead.
However, South Point answered right back on the ensuing possession. After a pass interference call against the Blue Devils and a 30-yard run by SPHS sophomore Owen Chafin, Pointers’ quarterback Brandin Jackson found Elijah Adams for a 20-yard scoring pass. The Blue Devils blocked the point-after kick to keep the game tied at six, with 44 seconds left on the first half clock.
On the first play of the ensuing GAHS drive, McClelland connected with Garrett Burns for a 46-yard pass that put the Blue and White at the SPHS nine-yard line. After three straight incompletions, McClelland found Call in the front corner of the endzone for six points. McClelland tossed the two-point conversion pass to Burns and the Blue Devils took a 14-6 advantage into the locker room.
The Blue Devil defense forced a three-and-out on the first drive of the second half, and the GAHS offense took over on the South Point side of the field. A holding penalty backed the Blue and White up to their own 49, but McClelland found Call for a 51-yard scoring pass on third down. Ty Howell split the uprights on the extra-point kick, giving GAHS a 21-6 lead with 9:22 left in the third.
After the GAHS defense came up with another turnover on downs, the Blue Devils again took possession in Pointer territory, at the 48. On the fifth play of the GAHS drive — which exclusively featured running plays — GAHS junior Clay Plymale found paydirt on a four-yard run. The point-after kick failed, but Gallia Academy held a 27-6 lead headed into the final period.
On South Point’s first drive of the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils intercepted a pass, but a roughing the passer penalty wiped out the play. The Pointers took full advantage, as three plays later they were in the endzone with a 23-yard pass from Jackson to Adams. The two-point try failed and GAHS led 27-12 with 9:02 remaining.
The SPHS defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Blue Devil drive, and the Pointers took over on their own 17. On the first play of the possession, Jackson found Adams for an 83-yard touchdown pass. The extra-point could have made it a one-possession game, but the Blue Devils stuffed it and kept the margin at 27-18 with 7:23 remaining.
Nine plays into the ensuing GAHS drive, the Blue Devils had covered 69 yards and ate up over four-minutes off of the clock. After an incompletion on third down, GAHS faced a fourth-and-14 from the SPHS 22. McClelland went to his favorite target yet again, finding Call for touchdown pass that — with Howell’s extra-point — made it a 34-18 GAHS lead, with 2:56 left in the game.
On the first play of the ensuing SPHS drive, Call came up with his second interception of the game to give the ball back to the hosts. On the second play of Gallia Academy’s drive, Plymale broke a 55-yard touchdown run, that gave the Blue and White a 40-18 lead.
South Point scored one final time, as Jackson found Adams from five-yards out with :01 remaining, but the Blue Devils came away with the 40-24 victory.
“We talked all week about how important a victory tonight would be for us to build on,” GAHS head coach Josh Riffe said. “The coaches did a great job, the players did everything we asked of them and I’m really proud of everybody.”
For the game, GAHS held a 428-to-342 advantage in total offense, including 173-to-127 on the ground. South Point had a 17-to-12 edge in first downs, but the Pointers committed the game’s only two turnovers. The Blue Devils were penalized six time for a total of 65 yards, while SPHS was sent back once for five yards.
McClelland — who led the Blue Devils on the ground with 81 yards on 15 carries — completed 9-of-20 passes for 255 yards and four scores.
Call finished with a team-best five receptions for 174 yards and four scores, while Burns caught one 46-yard pass. Matthew Moreaux caught one pass for 24 yards, Colton Campbell hauled in one seven-yard pass, while Cade Roberts finished with one four-yard reception and seven yards on three carries.
Plymale ran five times for 68 yards and two scores for GAHS, Boo Pullins ran six times for 13 yards, while John Stout had one four-yard rush.
For SPHS, Jackson completed 12-of-24 passes for 215 yards and four touchdowns. Adams caught a team-best five passes for 128 yards and four scores, while Owen Chafin caught three passes for 45 yards and led the guests on the ground with 73 yards on 21 carries.
This marks the final game in the Blue and White for seniors Colton Campbell, Quinton Yarger, Ty Howell, Brody Thomas, Tyjae Jones and Garrett Rogers.
“They’re a hard-working group,” Riffe said of his seniors. “I think that’s the thing you miss about guys like that is the consistency that you get out of them.”
This is the second straight year that GAHS has finished with a 1-9 record.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.