MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Talk about putting a game away in the second half.
The Southern football team turned its four-point halftime edge into its fifth win of the year on Friday in Gallia County, as the Tornadoes scored 23 unanswered points for a 39-12 win over Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division host South Gallia.
The Rebels (1-5, 1-4 TVC Hocking) — celebrating Homecoming — were on the board first, as senior Kyle Northup broke a 56-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. The hosts were 0-of-2 on two-point tries in the contest, and led 6-0 eight seconds into play.
Southern (5-1, 4-1) — securing its fourth straight non-losing season with the win — answered on the ensuing drive, going 58 yards in eight plays. The Tornadoes tied the game with a two-yard touchdown pass from Gage Shuler to Will Wickline with 8:29 left in the opening stanza. Shuler tossed the two-point conversion pass to Jonah Diddle, giving the guests the lead for good.
Next, the Purple and Gold executed an onside kick, with Coltin Parker recovering for the guests at the Rebel 45. Southern converted a fourth-and-three from the SGHS 27 on the sixth play of the drive, and then SHS senior Trey McNickle broke a 20-yard touchdown run on the very next play. Shuler carried in the two-point conversion to give the Tornadoes a 16-6 lead with 5:12 to go in the opening period.
The Rebels’ next possession was extended by a fourth down penalty against the Tornadoes, but the Purple and Gold defense stopped SGHS four plays later and the guests regained possession at their own 23.
After a punt by each side, Southern’s offense set up its next drive at the Rebel 25. However, the Tornadoes came up short on a fourth down, leaving the Rebels 75 yards to paydirt.
South Gallia covered 51 yards over the first six plays its next possession, and on the seventh play, Northup broke a 24-yard touchdown run, trimming the SHS lead to 16-12.
Southern covered 44 yards in four plays and made it to the Rebel 15, but SGHS sophomore Tristan Saber intercepted a pass on the final play of the half, keeping the margin at four points.
Out of the break, the guests marched 42 yards in 10 plays, with McNickle rushing into the end zone from six yards out. The Tornadoes made the two-point conversion to go up 24-12.
On their first try of the second half, the Rebels needed eight plays to make it four yards from paydirt, but were stopped on a fourth-and-goal.
After a three-and-out by each side, the Tornado offense took the game into the final quarter. Southern lost a fumble at its own 34 on the second play of the finale, but backed the Rebels up four yards over four plays and regained possession at the SHS 38.
Seven plays later, Southern was up 30-12, with Shuler tossing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Cole Steele. Four plays after that, a bad snap led to a safety, making Southern’s lead 32-12.
The Purple and Gold put the finishing touches on their 39-12 victory with a six-play, 39-yard drive, resulting in a 24-yard touchdown run by Josh Tanksley and a successful point-after kick.
For the game, SHS held a 28-to-21 edge in first downs, with a 348-to-185 advantage in total offense. Southern ran for 192 of its yards, while the Rebels gained 155 of their total yardage on the ground. The Tornadoes committed both turnovers in the game and were penalized five times for 25 yards, while SGHS was sent back 35 yards on three flags.
McNickle led the guests with two touchdowns and 121 yards on 19 carries, to go with 52 yards on a pair of receptions. Shuler — who was 10-of-18 passing for 156 yards and two touchdowns — carried the ball nine times for 45 yards, while Tanksley ended with 40 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
Diddle combined three receptions with two carries for 39 total yards in the win. Will Wickline added 28 total yards and a touchdown on three grabs and one rush, while Chase Bailey finished with 19 total yards on one catch and one carry. Steele caught one pass for a 31-yard touchdown, while Matthias Stansberry added one yard over a pair of totes for SHS.
Northup led the Rebels with 181 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, to go with 25 yards on two receptions. Saber was 3-of-11 passing for 30 yards, while carrying the ball twice for a gain of five. Justin Butler ran four times and earned nine yards, while Brayden Hammond came up with a five-yard reception.
Next Friday, Southern will host Ravenswood, while South Gallia visits Belpre.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.