Blue Devils rout River Valley, 49-7

BIDWELL, Ohio — First, the “team in town” added one of River Valley’s top players.

Now, as of late Saturday night, the Blue Devils returned to Gallipolis with the Ohio Valley Bank Community Bowl Trophy.

That’s because, in perhaps surprisingly dominating fashion, the Gallia Academy High School football team routed host River Valley — capturing a 49-7 victory in the third annual OVB Community Bowl matchup.

Both clubs are now 1-1, but the Blue Devils snapped a two-game losing streak against the archrival Raiders.

As a result, the Blue and White — often referred to in Raider country as ‘the team in town’ — will own the OVB Community Bowl Trophy for the next year.

In addition, the convincing win was the first for first-year Gallia Academy head coach Alex Penrod, as he took over a Blue Devil program that had fallen on hard times with back-to-back 1-9 campaigns.

Last week, the Blue Devils nearly knocked off host Meigs — but fell in the final 22 seconds by a count of 14-8.

On Saturday, GAHS simply rolled the Raiders, scoring the contest’s final 41 points while amassing 475 rushing yards on one attempt shy of an even 50.

In fact, the Blue Devils — which never trailed — doubled up the Raiders in rushing tries 49-24, as four backs finished with at least 78 yards on at least three carries.

For Penrod and the entire GAHS program, Saturday night was a satisfying and gratifying moment.

The entire squad, along with the coaching staff and cheerleaders, stood proudly on the podium to receive the OVB Community Bowl Trophy for the first time.

“It’s extremely exciting for this whole team and program and community. For these six seniors, they’ve had two opportunities before and weren’t able to get the win, so this was their last go-round. That’s who we were playing for the most,” said Penrod. “They knew who our opponent was tonight and the fact they’ve had their number the last two years. They made sure our guys were ready and executed the gameplan. I wouldn’t consider this an easy victory, because we had to fight for everything. It’s just when you prepare and execute what you want, sometimes results happen like this. Our kids were prepared and we made some adjustments. I’m very proud of our kids.”

For junior Jacob Campbell, who transferred from River Valley to Gallia Academy, he is the only player on either side to have been on the winning team in all three meetings.

The Raiders won 20-7 last season after a 27-13 triumph two years ago, as Campbell claimed all-Southeast District Division V first-team honors as a linebacker last year.

As expected, Campbell carried a bulk of the workload for the Blue Devils — rushing for 189 yards and a massive five touchdowns on only 15 carries.

In fact, all five touchdowns came in the game’s final 31 minutes — as he scored all four of Gallia Academy’s second half TDs.

His 1-yard run made it 14-7 in favor of the Blue Devils just three minutes into the second quarter, then he dashed for touchdowns of 22, 36, 33 and 11 yards in a matter of 11-and-a-half minutes.

His 22-yard scamper and two-point conversion run, just 44 seconds into the second half, started to put the game out of reach at 30-7.

His sprint of half that distance, only 13 seconds into the fourth quarter, made it 49-7 with an explanation point.

“It’s an extreme honor to see a young man like Jacob that’s had to persevere through so many obstacles right now between the two schools to have the kind of game that he did,” said Penrod. “He has a new team and a new band brothers and he is right with us. We’re riding on his back right now.”

Indeed, the Blue Devils rode Campbell’s back — part of putting a proverbial foot to the Raiders’ backsides.

“You have to give all the credit to their players and coaching staff because they kicked our butts,” said RVHS coach Jerrod Sparling. “There are things we didn’t do well that’s probably our own doing, but they kicked out butts. Their kids made plays and ours didn’t. We were on the field way too long defensively and on the field way too short offensively. Both of those groups are at fault.”

The Raiders committed three turnovers and punted four times, but a critical turnover on downs truly swung the game.

Trailing 14-7 at the 9:07 mark of the second stanza, River Valley crafted a seven-play, 48-yard, three-minute drive down to the GAHS 4-yard line.

But the march stalled out on a 4th-and-1 when the Raiders fumbled — but didn’t have the necessary yardage to pick up the first down anyway.

Aside from River Valley’s scoring drive — which spanned four minutes, 10 plays and 57 yards in the first quarter and was capped off by Gabe Stapleton’s 10-yard touchdown run — not much went right for the Raiders.

“In the first half, we did everything we could to shoot ourselves in the foot. We fumbled the opening kickoff, we misfit on a couple of things after we had some stuffs. We weren’t very effective in third down. It wasn’t because we weren’t in position to make plays or we didn’t know what was coming at us. We just, for some reason, didn’t do what we’re accustomed to doing,” said Sparling. “The red zone trip, where it was fourth down, that’s something we have to execute instead of putting the ball on the ground.”

Instead, the Blue Devils responded with a colossal six-minute, 16-play, 96-yard scoring drive — featuring six first downs and all but two plays coming on the ground.

Gallia Academy mixed its runs between Boo Pullins and quarterback Justin McClelland, as McClelland — on 4th-and-4 — ran in from eight yards out with 13 seconds left before halftime.

With Campbell’s extra-point run, the Blue Devils’ lead stood at 22-7.

“That was textbook right there,” said Penrod. “Getting that score right before the half and going up two possessions and knowing we get the football to start the second half, we had them (Raiders) right where we wanted them.”

Besides the fourth down conversion for the touchdown, the Blue Devils converted three third downs, including McClelland picking up 19 yards to the 14 to convert 3rd-and-16.

Gallia Academy also benefited from a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Raiders.

“We had a couple of chances to get off the field in that drive, and back them up and really swing the field position. We just didn’t do it,” said Sparling.

Besides Campbell, Pullins — who opened the scoring with a 54-yard dart at the 6:20 mark of the opening quarter — posted 103 yards on 14 totes, while McClelland carried 11 times for 78 yards.

“We were going to run the football and that’s what we did. Our offensive line did a great job and that’s something that we took a lot of pride in during the offseason to get better at,” said Penrod. “We did what we wanted to do with Jacob (Campbell), Boo (Pullins) and Justin (McClelland) running the football.”

James Armstrong added three jet sweep calls for 91 yards, as McClelland hooked up with Pullins for 14 yards in the second half for his only completion on five attempts.

Stapleton paced the Raiders with 55 yards on eight carries, while quarterback Patrick Brown completed 13-of-20 passes for 131 yards.

Layne Fitch finished with four receptions for 61 yards, and Jarret McCarley three for 47, including a 26-yarder near the end of the first half to put the Raiders into Blue Devil territory.

For River Valley, which must bounce back against visiting and surprising South Point (2-0) on Friday night, Sparling put the loss into perspective for his seniors.

“This game is a lot of fun for both communities, and it’s a lot of fun to play in and coach in. We didn’t get the result we wanted tonight, but these seniors can go out and say they were 2-1 in this rivalry game,” he said.

Speaking of rivalries, Gallia Academy hosts another in Jackson on Friday, but certainly savored Saturday night’s win.

“We’re getting a trophy tonight and we’re beating our rival, so it’s pretty awesome,” said Penrod.

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Members of the Gallia Academy High School football team and cheerleaders celebrate with the Ohio Valley Bank Community Bowl Trophy following the Blue Devils’ 49-7 victory over archrival River Valley. of the Gallia Academy High School football team and cheerleaders celebrate with the Ohio Valley Bank Community Bowl Trophy following the Blue Devils’ 49-7 victory over archrival River Valley. Paul Boggs|OVP Sports

By Paul Boggs

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Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106