MERCERVILLE, Ohio — About as well-rounded a win as one team could ask for.
Eastern forced six turnovers and outgained host South Gallia by a 2-to-1 margin in total yards Friday night while rolling to a 32-0 victory in a Week 5 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division football contest in Gallia County.
The Eagles (3-2, 1-2 TVC Hocking) notched their first league win of the 2019 campaign in impressive fashion as the guests forced three turnovers in each half and accumulated 307 yards of total offense while storming out to a 25-point halftime advantage.
The Rebels (1-4, 1-2) — who mustered only 87 total yards in the first half — didn’t convert their first first down of the game until the final minute of the first half. Overall, the Red and Gold finished the night with just 153 total yards and seven first downs.
The Green and White needed only one play to make their prowess known as South Gallia’s first snap resulted in a lateral pass that ended up being recovered by Will Oldaker at the hosts 32-yard line.
Five plays later, Blake Newland capped a 32-yard scoring drive with a 10-yard run that gave the guests a 6-0 edge with 9:45 left in the first quarter.
The Rebels threw an interception to Newland two plays into the ensuing drive, but the Eagles were unable to do anything with the takeaway and lost possession on downs.
South Gallia followed with a punt on its next drive, and Eastern answered with an 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Steve Fitzgerald for a 12-point advantage with 1:36 left in the opening canto.
Both teams traded punts on their next possessions, giving South Gallia its best field position of the night at the EHS 37 early in the second frame. The Rebels, however, mustered only three yards and ultimately turned the ball over on downs — giving Eastern the ball back at its own 34.
Five plays later, the Eagles capped a 66-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Conner Ridenour to Mason Dishong at the 5:15 mark. Dishong kicked the successful point-after try while extending the lead out to 19-0.
Following another three-and-out punt by South Gallia, the guests marched 46 yards in six plays and built a 25-point halftime lead as Fitzgerald capped things with a 5-yard run with 1:28 remaining.
The Rebels finally sustained a drive late in the half as they pushed the ball down to the Eastern 18 with 3.3 seconds left, but Ridenour picked off a last-gasp pass at the end of the half — allowing the Green and White to take a 25-0 advantage into the break.
The Eagles — who gained 223 yards and had 14 first downs in the opening half — needed less than two minutes to score again in the third period as Newland rumbled 30 yards while capping a 6-play, 54-yard drive at the 10:09 mark en route to a 32-0 cushion.
With the lead going over the 30-point plateau at that point, the clock continuously ran the rest of the evening as neither team managed another single point.
Oldaker recorded a third quarter interception for the Eagles, while Jake Barber and Isaiah Reed recovered South Gallia fumbles in the final canto.
The Eagles are now 15-6 all-time against the Rebels and have won five straight in the head-to-head series. Eastern also improved to 7-4 in contests held at South Gallia.
Afterwards, EHS coach Pat Newland spoke about his team’s ability to execute the game plan to near perfection — something he was quite proud of.
“We have a tough group of kids. We did what we wanted to do tonight, which was show ourselves as a complete team. We completed passes, we gained yards on the ground and we forced a lot of turnovers … which was something we really challenged our kids about this week,” Newland said. “I’m real happy with everybody tonight because we put together a complete game. We’ll enjoy this one for what it was and we can take some momentum from this into next week. This was a good win.”
Conversely, SGHS coach Vance Fellure was already limited with options coming in as only 14 players dressed for the game. By night’s end, his roster was down to about a dozen healthy participants — and the six turnovers certainly didn’t help the cause either.
“We had some injuries coming in, so we knew what we wanted to do tonight — which was run the football a little more. There were some things early on, mainly turnovers and penalties, that made us go away from our game plan and it just kind of took off from there,” Fellure said. “There were some positive things from tonight’s game, but it cannot be a couple of people making those positives. It has to be the whole group. Our challenge the rest of the way is for everybody to make positive plays on a consistent basis. When that happens, we’ll be a more competitive football team.”
Eastern accumulated 252 rushing yards on 31 attempts and added another 55 yards through the air, while the Rebels managed 83 rushing yards on 26 carries and also had 70 passing yards.
The guests claimed a 19-7 advantage in first downs and were flagged seven times for 65 yards, while South Gallia was penalized five times for 25 yards.
Newland led Eastern with 109 rushing yards on 14 carries, followed by Fitzgerald with 90 yards on 13 totes.
Conner Ridenour completed 7-of-12 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Brayden Smith led the EHS wideouts with 20 yards on three catches, followed by Dishong with 24 yards on two grabs.
Kyle Northup led the South Gallia ground attack with 83 yards on 16 carries and Kenny Siders added 23 yards on six rushes.
Tristan Saber completed 6-of-14 passes for 70 yards and threw three interceptions. Siders hauled in two passes for 23 yards, while Brayden Hammond added two catches for 19 yards.
Both teams return to TVC Hocking action on Friday as Eastern hosts Wahama, while the Rebels welcome Southern. Both contests will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.