POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Celebrating a century in the most fitting of fashions.
The Point Pleasant football team shook off a 16-point first half deficit and took a permanent lead with 3:24 left in regulation Friday night as the Big Blacks rallied for a thrilling 26-22 victory over visiting Gallia Academy in the annual Battle for the Bridge contest held at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field.
The Big Blacks (1-1) trailed after each of the first three quarters of play, but the hosts strung together an 8-play, 63-yard drive that resulted in a 4-point lead as Evan Roach scored from three yards out with 3:24 left in regulation.
The Blue Devils (2-1) pushed their ensuing possession down to the PPHS 33, but a trio of penalties and a pair of sacks left the Blue and White facing a 4th-and-58 with just over a minute left. GAHS was unable to convert and turned the ball over on downs at the hosts 19-yard line with 55 seconds remaining.
Point Pleasant — which was celebrating 100 years of varsity football at the school — took a pair of kneel-downs to run out the clock … and the celebration erupted on the Red and Black sideline.
Roach — who had three touchdown runs, 152 rushing yards and another 122 passing yards — ended up being named MVP of the contest, which was televised as part of the Par Mar Friday Night Rivals game of the week.
The Big Blacks outgained the guests by a 433-389 overall margin in total yards of offense and also finished the night with the only two takeaways in the game — one of which led to seven points just before halftime.
The contest also turned into a bit of a laundry-fest as both programs combined for 24 accepted penalties that covered 211 yards by night’s end. GAHS was flagged 16 times for 136 yards, while the hosts were penalized eight times for 75 yards.
The Blue and White built a 3-0 lead after Caleb Stout booted a 24-yard field goal with 3:25 showing on the first quarter clock, then added a pair of quick-strike passing scores from Brody Fellure.
Fellure found Mason Skidmore wide open down the left side on the opening play of the second quarter. Skidmore’s touchdown catch covered 62 yards and gave GAHS a 10-0 edge with 11:49 showing in the second quarter.
Point Pleasant punted on its ensuing drive, then Fellure hit Kenyon Franklin with a 73-yard TD pass on the next snap that gave Gallia Academy a 16-0 edge with 8:56 remaining in the half.
The Red and Black, however, answered with an impressive 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 26-yard scamper by Gavin Jeffers — cutting the deficit down to 16-7 with 3:59 left.
The opening play of Gallia Academy’s ensuing drive ended up being a major turning point as Caleb Hatfield picked off deflected pass and returned the ball to the GAHS 35.
Seven plays and 35 yards later, the Big Blacks closed the deficit down to 16-14 as Roach provided the first of his three scoring runs — this one from seven yards out — with 1:18 remaining until halftime.
Point opened the second half with a 7-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard Roach run, giving the hosts their first lead of the game at 20-16 with 9:34 showing in the third canto.
The Blue Devils later responded with a 7-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard Fellure run, giving GAHS a 22-20 edge with 25.5 seconds remaining in the third.
Both teams traded punts to start the fourth, then the Big Blacks put together their game-winning drive by running the ball eight consecutive times — with Roach’s hat trick effort sealing the deal.
Afterwards, PPHS coach David Darst was obviously pleased with the outcome. More importantly, he was proud of the way his kids, his coaches, his community, and even his rivals, stepped up and made one hundred years of football special … almost all over again.
“It’s just like the whole week. This game has been building … the atmosphere, the hundred years of football and the rivalry with Gallia Academy. It was a night that really felt like we had brought high school football back to Point Pleasant,” Darst said. “When you look out here and see two sides of bleachers full of fans wearing their school’s colors — especially after a year and whatever of dealing with limited crowds — and then you have two teams come out here and just put all of their hearts into this one … that’s what it’s all about.
“We were fortunate to beat a really good football team over there in Gallia Academy, and Coach Penrod and his staff deserve a lot of credit for this one. Our kids grew up a lot tonight, especially in the second half. It’s a proud night for our community … and this is what Friday nights are all about.”
Besides the outcome, GAHS was also unfortunate after losing starting running back Hudson Shamblin to injury in the first quarter. The guests later lost a pair of starting linemen throughout the second half, leaving an already depleted 28-man roster that much thinner.
As GAHS coach Alex Penrod noted though, his troops kept finding ways to stay in the hunt. And for as much as the outcome might sting now, Penrod feels that the Blue Devils are better prepared for the start of Ohio Valley Conference play next week.
“For the rivalry and what this game is to both us and to Coach Darst and his staff, this was a heck of a game to be part of,” Penrod said. “It was a dog fight and we kept getting beat up and beat up, and we lost some key guys as the game went along, but I cannot say enough good things about our guys tonight. We kept battling, and we showed a lot of fight and determination. We showed some real grit and growth, and that’s good … because it isn’t going to get any easier as we head into league play next week.
“Congratulations to Coach Darst and his kids for winning a football game like this. It’s a tough one to handle, but a game like this is truly what high school football is all about.”
Roach finished the night with 27 carries for 152 yards and also connected on 6-of-10 passes for 122 yards. Cody Schultz led the PPHS wideouts with three catches for 91 yards.
Fellure led the Blue Devils with 55 rushing yards on 12 attempts and also connected on 9-of-158 passes for 314 yards, including two picks and two scores. Skidmore hauled in a team-high four passes for 76 yards and Franklin had 110 yards on three grabs.
Point Pleasant’s Brooks Pearson also picked off a pass in the early part of the third quarter, but no points came from the ensuing drive.
After 84 matchups, Gallia Academy still leads the all-time series by a 41-38-5 count.
Point Pleasant will host Mingo Central on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Gallia Academy welcomes Chesapeake to Memorial Field on Friday at 7 p.m.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.