MERCERVILLE, Ohio — The wrong time for the turnover bug to bite.
The South Gallia football team led non-conference guest Symmes Valley 12-0 headed into the fourth quarter of the season-opening contest on Saturday at Rebel Stadium in Gallia County, but four SGHS turnovers over the final 12 minutes allowed the visiting Vikings to escape the 14-12 win.
Defense ruled the early part of the game, with the Vikings (1-0) accounting for the only first down in the opening quarter.
The Rebels (0-1) made it into SVHS territory for the first time after a 47-yard run by quarterback Tristan Saber on their opening play of the second period. The hosts made it as far as the 11, but Josh Ferguson intercepted a pass to end the Rebels’ longest drive of the first half.
South Gallia started the second half in style, Kyle Northup broke runs of 29 and 45 yards on the Rebels first two plays from scrimmage. Four plays later, Saber tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Siders to give the Red and Gold a 6-0 lead with 9:26 to go in the third.
On the ensuing kickoff — which was moved up 15 yards after a trio of flags — SGHS sophomore Devin Siders recovered a Symmes Valley fumble at the Viking 18. Five plays later, Northup gave South Gallia a 12-0 lead, with a three-yard touchdown run with 6:50 left in the third.
The hosts forced another turnover on the following Symmes Valley possession, as Jared Ward recovered a fumble at the Viking 39. South Gallia’s offense went three-and-out, but regained possession with 18 seconds left in the third and 46 yards to paydirt.
The Rebels fumbled the ball away on the second play of the fourth quarter, however, with Jack Leith recovering for the guests. Leith gave the Vikings their first points on the very next play, scrambling 36 yards for a touchdown.
South Gallia went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and the punt was blocked out of bounds for a net loss of two yards. The Red and Gold defense stood tall on fourth-and-two from their own 24 to give the ball back to the Rebel offense.
However, four plays and 16 yards into the drive, SVHS sophomore Gavan Yates stripped the ball, recovered the fumble, and rumbled 40 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
On South Gallia’s next offensive snap, a tipped pass landed in the hands of Vikings junior Derek Crum. The guests went three-and-out, but Ferguson came up with an interception on the ensuing Rebel drive to seal the 14-12 SVHS victory.
Following the contest, first-year SGHS head coach Vance Fellure commended his team’s effort and defense, but admitted lack of depth hurt the Rebels down the stretch.
“I’m very proud of our effort,” Fellure said. “There’s a lot of things that went our way, but I believe not having the depth hurt us come that fourth quarter. I thought the defense played extremely well. The turnovers, a couple of them late came because we were trying to make things happen on offense. We were getting a little stagnant, so they were trying to make plays.
“Some things just didn’t go our way toward the end. We’re going to stay positive with them. They’re a close-knit team, everybody stays together and stays positive. We have six seniors who work their tails off, and we’ll improve from this.”
South Gallia earned advantages of 10-to-5 in first downs, and 235-to-94 in total offense, including 207-to-92 on the ground. Symmes Valley — which won the turnover battle by a 5-to-2 clip — was penalized 13 times for 115 yards, while SGHS was flagged six times for a total of 45.
Northup led the Rebel ground attack, carrying the ball 30 times for a total of 149 yards and one touchdown. Saber — who was 3-of-10 passing for 28 yards and a touchdown — earned a net of 44 yards on eight carries.
Siders posted 20 yards on two carries, while catching one pass for 10 yards and a touchdown. Justin Butler caught a game-best two passes for 18 yards in the setback.
Leading the Vikings on the ground, Nick Strow had 29 yards and Ferguson ended with 26 on eight carries apiece. Leith — who was 1-of-3 passing for two yards — carried the pall 13 times for a net gain of 24. Crum finished with 15 yards on four carries, while Ethan Patterson had one six-yard run and one two-yard reception.
This marks the Vikings’ eighth consecutive win in the head-to-head series with South Gallia. SVHS now holds a 17-1 all-time record over the Rebels. The 14-12 final is the same exact score from the 2018 season-opener between these schools.
The Rebels will begin Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play in Week 2, as they visit Waterford on Friday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.