The Blue Devils did their best to spoil Celeste Stiltner’s birthday.
Unfortunately for Gallia Academy, it didn’t happen.
That’s because the host Blue Devils, in the final Southeastern Ohio Athletic League tennis match on Friday, couldn’t clinch at least a share of their fourth consecutive league championship.
Instead, it was the undefeated archrival Ironmen storming the court to celebrate with Stiltner, as Jackson clipped Gallia Academy 3-2 to win the SEOAL outright.
With the contest tied 2-2, and Gallia Academy’s championship hopes hinging on its second doubles tandem of Olivia Meadows and Dekota Metzler, Stiltner and Christian Stepp secured Jackson’s outright crown with a 7-5, 6-1 sweep.
The loss marked the official end of the Blue Devils’ dominance of the SEOAL, as they had rolled through the league the previous three years.
Gallia Academy ends its regular season at 8-7 — and 4-2 in the one-time four-team SEOAL.
The Ironmen, which also snapped the Blue Devils’ 28-match league win streak three weeks ago, earned their first conference tennis title since back-to-back crowns — coming clear back in 1975 and 1976.
It is only the Ironmen’s third tennis championship in school history.
Jackson also completed a perfect 13-for-13 campaign, which included all six SEOAL bouts.
Athens and Logan split with each other, thus both finished league play at 1-5.
The Ironmen prevailed 4-1 in the first meeting, with junior Miles Cornwell capturing the lone Blue Devil victory in that match.
On Friday, Cornwell — at second singles again — swept Evan Coyan 6-3, 6-1.
At third singles, GAHS senior Adriana Wilcoxon blanked Jackson’s Austin Evans (6-0, 6-0).
The Red and White, however, won at first singles — along with sweeping the two doubles tilts.
Connor Radune defeated Pierce Wilcoxon 7-6, 6-0, as Radune won a 7-3 tiebreaker to claim the first set.
In addition to Stiltner and Stepp’s second-doubles sweep, Jackson’s Caden Southard and Travis Stevens swept MiKayla Edelmann and Jenelle Stevens at first doubles, 6-1, 6-0.
On Thursday, after Wednesday’s non-league match at Marietta was rained out, the Blue Devils traveled to Unioto — and won a non-league match 3-2.
The Blue Devils also defeated Unioto in their first meeting on April 1.
Without the Wilcoxons, the Blue Devils dropped the second and third singles matches, but Cornwell shut out Sam Smith (6-0, 6-0) at first singles.
Brett Moore of the Shermans swept Metzler at second singles 6-1, 6-1 — while Tanner Cremeans of Unioto swept Stevens 7-5, 6-1.
The Blue Devils, though, rallied in dramatic fashion for three-set victories in the doubles duels.
Both GAHS combos lost the first set, then evened their matches with 7-6 tiebreaker wins in the second set.
They then captured the third set by identical 6-3 marks.
At first doubles, Edelmann and Meadows edged Caitlynn McKell and Caroline Thiel 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.
At second doubles, Katie Carpenter and Trinity Frye nudged Colton Morton and Karlie Dayton 3-6, 7-6, 6-3.
It was the first varsity tennis match for Frye.
The Blue Devils will now compete in the annual Division II sectional tournament, set for Monday and Tuesday at Portsmouth High School.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106