GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — There were so many twists and turns, even a roller coaster enthusiast would’ve struggled with this ride from start to finish.
Visiting Fairland built a pair of double-digit leads in each half, but the Gallia Academy football team rallied back from a 15-point third quarter deficit with 25 consecutive points and eventually held on for a thrilling 47-40 Homecoming victory Friday night in an Ohio Valley Conference matchup at Memorial Field.
Both the Dragons (4-1, 4-1 OVC) and the host Blue Devils (4-1, 3-1) combined for 90 points and 826 yards of total offense over the course of 48 minutes, with GAHS striking first on a 63-yard scoring run by James Armstrong on the opening drive of the game.
FHS, however, responded with consecutive Max Ward touchdown passes and a pair of successful 2-point conversions for a 16-7 lead after one quarter of play.
J.D. Brumfield hauled in a 20-yard scoring pass from Ward for an 8-7 edge, then Gavin Hunt grabbed a 19-yard pass from Hunt.
Fairland claimed its largest lead of the game early in the second frame as Brumfield scored on a 10-yard run. Emma Marshall added the successful point-after kick for a 23-7 edge with 8:19 left in the half.
The Blue and White responded with consecutive scores. Michael Beasy rumbled 20 yards to close the gap down to 23-14, then Kenyon Franklin hauled in a 30-yard pass from Noah Vanco and Armstrong tacked on a successful 2-point run to whittle things down to 23-22.
The Dragons had possession at the GAHS 44 with enough time to run one play before the intermission, and the guests chose a successful hook-and-ladder play along the left sideline.
Ward connected on a pass to Hunt, who then flipped the ball to Steeler Leep — who then sprinted along the sideline before being hit around the one.
After a brief discussion by the officiating crew, a touchdown was signaled and allowed Fairland to enter the break with a 30-22 advantage.
Brumfield extended the lead back out to double digits with a 7-yard TD run on the opening drive of the second half, making it a 37-22 contest.
Gallia Academy started its surge from there as Briar Williams hauled in a 56-yard pass from Vanco, with Armstrong adding a 2-point conversion run for a 37-30 deficit.
Armstrong then rumbled 53 yards to paydirt, but a missed extra-point kick still allowed FHS to cling to a 37-36 lead.
Gallia Academy claimed a permanent lead moments later when Armstrong returned a punt 80 yards to the house, giving the hosts a 42-37 edge early in the fourth quarter.
Moments later, a bad snap on a punt attempt resulted in a safety — pushing the Blue Devils’ advantage out to 44-37. The hosts took the ensuing possession and converted 26-yard Caleb Geiser field goal for their largest lead of the game at 47-37.
The Dragons managed a late Ward to Hunt touchdown pass of 21 yards in the waning moments, but Gallia Academy ultimately held on for the 4-point triumph.
Both teams committed two turnovers apiece in the game, but FHS did managed a slight 20-16 edge in first downs. Fairland was penalized 11 times for 101 yards, while the hosts were flagged 10 times for 81 yards.
GAHS outgained the guests by a slim 425-401 overall mark in total yards, including a 242-238 edge in rushing yards.
Armstrong led the Blue Devils with 221 rushing yards on 20 carries, followed by Beasy with 44 yards on seven attempts.
Vanco completed 13-of-23 passes for 183 yards, including two interceptions and two TD passes. Williams led the wideouts with five catches for 81 yards.
Brumfield paced the FHS ground attack with 244 yards on 28 carries, with Ward completing 14-of-27 passes for 163 yards. Ward also threw one interception and four touchdowns. Hunt led the wideouts with five catches for 58 yards.
Gallia Academy returns to action Friday when it travels to Portsmouth for an OVC contest at 7 p.m.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.