MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Lightning struck twice … and the Tornadoes ultimately never weathered the storm.
Senior running back Isaiah Geiger rushed for a school-record 352 yards, but his pair of long touchdown runs in the first quarter provided all the cushion that South Gallia needed Friday night during a 48-21 victory over visiting Southern in a Week 9 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division contest in Gallia County.
The Rebels (5-4, 4-3 TVC Hocking) never trailed in their Senior Night affair, as the hosts received scoring runs of 87 yards and 75 yards from Geiger in the opening canto to secure a 13-0 advantage through 12 minutes of play.
SGHS extended its first half lead out to as much as 21-0 in the opening moments of the second period following a two-yard TD catch by Kane Hutchinson from Landon Hutchinson at the 10:03 mark.
Southern (3-6, 2-5) — which mustered only 52 yards of offense and four first downs on its opening three drives — finally started to find some rhythm in the second stanza as the guests marched 60 yards in four plays for its first score of the game. Kody Greene bulled in on a 10-yard run at the 8:29 mark, allowing Southern to close to within 21-7.
After forcing South Gallia’s only punt of the opening half, the Purple and Gold needed only one play to pull to within a possession. Tommy Ramthun hauled in a 46-yard pass from Blake Johnson with 5:54 left in the half, making it a 21-14 contest at the break.
The Red and Gold owned a sizable 337-176 edge in total offense during the first half, with Geiger providing a large portion of that discrepancy. Geiger had 255 yards on 12 carries to go along with his pair of first half TD runs.
SGHS forced a three-and-out on Southern’s opening drive, then marched 53 yards in eight plays to reclaim a two-possession cushion. Landon Hutchinson capped the drive with a six-yard scamper at the 6:53 mark for a 28-14 edge.
The Tornadoes, however, responded by going right back down the field for points. Greene capped a seven-play, 71-yard drive with a seven-yard run at the 3:51 mark for a 28-21 deficit.
Southern was never closer, and the ensuing kick-off didn’t help the guests’ cause as Landon Hutchinson returned the boot 85 yards to the house — making it a 35-21 contest with 3:39 left in the third.
SGHS forced a Southern punt on the ensuing possession, then needed only two plays to cover 60 yards for another score after Johnny Sheets gave the hosts a 42-21 lead with a 29-yard scamper with 55.2 seconds left.
Sheets closed the scoring with a four-yard TD run with 6:32 left in regulation, which capped a 10-play, 95-yard drive that made it 48-21.
The Rebels — now winners of three straight decisions — will enter Week 10 unofficially rated 10th in the Division VII, Region 25 bracket as they prepare for their season finale at Miller next week. The Falcons took a hit to their playoff chances Friday night following a 39-21 setback at Wahama.
Afterwards, sixth-year SGHS coach Jason Peck was pleased with how well his troops played in their final regular season contest at home. More importantly, he’s thankful that his kids will have a chance to play for something more next Friday in their Week 10 finale.
“We knew that Southern had some big-play capabilities, so we really wanted to come out and deliver an early blow to build some confidence,” Peck said. “Our kids have been playing really well of late, and that big lead early on really allowed us to get things going.
“Thanks to our friends up there at Wahama, and I do want to thank Coach Barr for that, we will once again have a chance at making the playoffs headed into the final week of the season. We may or may not make it, but it will definitely help in getting us ready to give it our best shot.”
As for SHS coach Kyle Wickline, the seventh-year frontman was disappointed with the outcome — mainly because of the little things that doomed them from the opening kick.
“We didn’t do things very well fundamentally on defense. Gieger and Hutchinson are good backs, but we have to wrap up and make tackles on those guys better than we did tonight,” Wickline said. “We were a little sluggish out of the gate, and we ended up fighting an uphill battle all night long. We kept fighting to stay in it, but then they’d make a play and put us right back in the same hole we had just gotten out of.
“We’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to finish up the year on a good note.”
Southern completes its 2015 campaign next Saturday night when it hosts Eastern at Roger Lee Adams Memorial Field in Racine.
South Gallia claimed a 21-12 edge in first downs and was flagged four times for 22 yards, compared to three penalties for 40 yards against SHS. Both teams also committed one turnover apiece in the game.
The Rebels outgained the guests by a sizable 572-340 overall margin in total offense, which included a whopping 519-170 discrepancy in rushing yards.
Geiger led the hosts with 352 yards and two scores on 19 carries, followed by Landon Hutchinson with 81 yards and a score on 13 totes. Sheets also added 62 yards and two scores on five attempts.
Landon Hutchinson finished the night 7-of-15 passing for 53 yards, throwing one touchdown. Kane Hutchinson had all seven catches for 53 yards and a score.
Greene paced the SHS ground attack with 184 yards and two scores on 23 carries. Blake Johnson was 7-of-15 passing for 53 yards, which included one pick and one TD. Ramthun led the Southern wideouts with five grabs for 90 yards and a score.
Greene recovered a fumble for the Tornadoes, while Nathan Colburn came away with an interception for the Rebels.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.