GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — When you’re wearing down, they’re just getting warmed up.
The Gallia Academy football team trailed Ohio Valley Conference guest Coal Grove 14-7 after 16 minutes of play on Friday at Memorial Field, but the Blue Devils scored five straight touchdowns and cruised to a 44-20 victory over the visiting Hornets.
The Blue Devils (7-0, 4-0 OVC) — undefeated through seven games for the first time since the unbeaten season of 1986 — were only able to run three plays offensive plays in the first quarter, with the Hornets (2-5, 1-3) using 17 run plays to control possession.
On the second play of the of the second quarter, Coal Grove broke the scoreless tie, as Austin Stapleton found the end zone on a six-yard run. The point-after kick was missed, however, leaving the guests with a 6-0 lead 47 seconds into the second.
GAHS committed back-to-back penalties to start its first drive of the second quarter, but junior Michael Beasy broke a 65-yard touchdown run on the very next play. Andrew Toler made his first of four point-after kicks, giving the hosts a 7-6 lead with 10:51 left in the first half.
Next, the Blue and White recovered an onside kick, but wound up fumbling the ball away two plays later, with Reece York recovering for the guests at the CGHS 40.
Four straight carries got the Hornets to the end zone, with Austin Stormes delivering the scoring blow from 16 yards out. Cory Borders ran in the two-point conversion on a quarterback keeper, making the Coal Grove lead 14-7 with 8:31 to go in the half.
A 44-yard run by Donevyn Woodson on the next play from scrimmage put the ball in Hornet territory, and four plays later, Beasy broke a 26-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14 with 6:53 left in the stanza.
The Blue Devils took their first lead just nine seconds later, as Noah Vanco tossed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Webb on the first play after the hosts recovered another onside kick. The Gallia Academy lead went to 22-14, as Vanco tossed the two-point conversion pass to Briar Williams.
A punt by each team took the game to halftime, and then GAHS began adding on to its lead on the other side of the break. Gallia Academy missed a field goal on the first drive of the second half, but the Blue and White defense forced a three-and out to get the ball back at their own 30.
The Blue Devils covered the 70 yards in nine plays, with Beasy finding the end zone for the third time at the 3:53 mark of the third, completing the possession with a seven-yard run.
Trailing 29-14, Coal Grove took the rest of the time off the third quarter clock and then turned the ball over on downs on the first play of the finale.
After a 17-yard pass from Vanco to Cade Roberts on the first play of the Blue Devil possession, Vanco completed a tipped pass to Williams, who then ran 38 yards for the touchdown. Beasy punched in the two-point conversion and gave the hosts a 37-14 lead with 11:24 left in regulation.
After a nine-play Hornet drive resulting in a punt, the Blue Devils took over with 61 yards to paydirt and 6:54 left in the contest. Beasy picked up 34 yards on a trio of carries and then Vanco tossed a 27-yard touchdown to Woodson, giving the hosts a 44-14 lead with 5:20 to play.
Coal Grove ended its scoring drought with 2:15 left in the game, as Malachai Wheeler completed an 80-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run. The Hornets couldn’t execute the onside kick attempt, and the Blue Devils sealed the 44-20 win in victory formation.
GAHS has now won 14 consecutive regular season games and 13 straight OVC bouts, as well as winning 10 decisions in a row at Memorial Field. Following the triumph, third-year Gallia Academy head coach Alex Penrod discussed the Blue Devils’ game plan for the Hornets.
“We knew what Coal Grove wanted to do offensively,” Penrod said. “They wanted slow the game down, they wanted to hold on to the football and let that clock run. We got some crucial stops when we needed to, and we knew coming in that when we got an opportunity to score, we were just going to try get the football back. We came up with two big onside kicks there, Andrew Toler has just been outstanding, to say the least, in everything that he does. Unfortunately we kind of blew that first opportunity away, but we took advantage of that second one and were able to put some points on the board.
“There in that second half, our defensive guys continually wore on their offense a little bit. Credit to our coaching staff for making adjustments, and credit to our kids for understanding those adjustments and making some plays, they really just stepped up there in the second half.”
Coach Penrod also acknowledged the Blue Devils’ 7-0 start, but noted that they won’t celebrate long with a Week 8 trip to Rock Hill looming.
“It’s definitely surreal, it’s definitely special, and just like every Friday night, we’re going to enjoy it tonight, but we know we still have bigger goals,” Penrod said. “We have another opponent next week that is going to do the same things that we just saw tonight. We’ll try to prepare to stop the run again, let our offense score, and try to get as many possessions as we can.”
The Hornets claimed an 18-to-16 edge in first downs, and the Blue Devils committed the game’s only turnover. GAHS ran for 290 of their 460 total yards, while Coal Grove picked up 297 of their 320 total yards on the ground. The hosts were penalized five times for 40 yards, while CGHS was sent back once for five yards.
Beasy led all ball carriers with 214 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. Vanco completed 8-of-11 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns, finding six different Blue Devils through the air.
Woodson had a game-best three receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown, to go with 47 yards on a pair of carries. James Armstrong had 32 yards on eight carries, while losing two yards on his lone reception. Webb had one 48-yard touchdown catch, Williams added one grab for 38 yards and a touchdown, Roberts caught one pass for 17 yards, while Ben Cox came up with a six-yard reception.
For Coal Grove, Stormes had 160 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, to go with one grab for seven. Stapleton picked up 111 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, while Wheeler had 21 yards and a score on two totes, to go with a 16 yard reception. Clay Ferguson ran once for four yards, while Borders — who was 2-for-4 passing for 23 yards — gained one yard over nine carries.
Gallia Academy has now defeated Coal Grove in back-to-back seasons, and is now 10-10 in all-time meetings with the Hornets.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.