KINNIKINNICK, Ohio — No beginner’s luck for the Blue Devils.
Playing in the round of 32 for the first time in program history, the third-seeded Gallia Academy boys soccer team dropped a 3-1 decision to second-seeded Unioto in the Division II district championship match on Saturday at Zane Trace High School.
The Blue Devils (15-2-2) — who entered play with nine consecutive wins — took a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick by Brody Wilt with 25:24 left in the first half.
Unioto (15-4) — district champions for the first time since 2004 — out-shot GAHS 11-to-3 in the opening half, but was stopped on all-4 of its shots on goal.
The Tanks tied the game 2:58 into the second half, with Lucas Hines assisting Ethan Kearns, who found the right side of the goal from the left side of the field.
Unioto was ahead 2-1 with 33:49 to play, as a shot from Antonio Cruz ricocheted off the crossbar and just over the goal line.
Kearns added the Tanks’ final goal with 5:04 to play, this time going firing from the right side into the back left part of the net.
GAHS claimed a 12-to-9 advantage in shots after the halftime, with a 7-to-5 edge in shots on goal.
For the match, UHS had a 4-to-3 edge in corner kicks, and a 20-to-15 advantage in shots. Bryson Miller earned six saves in goal for the Blue and White.
Unioto will meet Alexander in the Region 7 semifinal on Thursday. The Spartans — who defeated Athens 4-2 in the other district final on Saturday — are the only other team to claim victory over the Blue Devils this season.
This fall, Gallia Academy has set a new school record for wins, earned its second consecutive Ohio Valley Conference title, and made it to the district final for the first time in program history.
Following the match, fourth-year GAHS head coach Cory Camden reflected on the Blue Devils’ remarkable season, but admitted it could be hard to get past this match.
“It was an exception season when you didn’t even know if you were going to have one,” Coach Camden said. “It’s exciting, 15 wins is the most in school history, this is only our second loss of the season and it came in a district championship. We’re going to lose four seniors from this team with Christian Higginbotham, Bode Wamsley, Dalton Vanco and Colton Roe, but we’re going to have new guys to step into those roles I’m sure.
“I thought we left it on the field, we were unlucky on a couple of their goals, but I can’t say enough about my guys putting in the work. They put the work in during the offseason, they put the work in during the season, we were prepared, and we were excited to be here. After everything’s said and done, we can look back on it, but right now, it’s a bad taste in your mouth.”
Of Gallia Academy’s program-record 15 wins, eight came in shut out fashion. Saturday was only the sixth time in 19 matches this fall the Blue Devils have allowed multiple goals.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.