ALBANY, Ohio — Isaiah Lester led an impressive Gallia Academy comeback.
Unfortunately for the visiting Blue Devils, they didn’t finish the deal.
Lester — the senior forward for the Blue Devils — scored a hat track of goals, but it wasn’t enough as Gallia Academy fell short at Alexander 4-3 in Tuesday night’s non-league soccer match.
The contest marked the season opener for Gallia Academy.
The Blue Devils did themselves in by falling behind 3-0 at halftime, as they then trailed 4-1 with only 32 minutes remaining in the game.
Lester, who scored his three goals in a matter of 15 minutes and three seconds, got Gallia Academy to within 4-3 with only 21:13 to play.
However, the equalizer never materialized for the 4-4 tie, and thus the Blue Devils — despite a noble comeback attempt — came up short.
How short you ask?
Well, Lester almost single-footedly completed the rally.
After his third goal in which he simply outran the defense, he stole the ball from the Alexander defenders around the 20-minute mark — and ricocheted a shot off the crossbar.
A few seconds later, Gallia Academy was awarded a penalty kick following an infraction inside the box.
Lester took the penalty shot, but Alexander goalkeeper Will Tribe made the major save to ultimately preserve the win.
Lester landed his opening goal just four minutes into the second half, as he collected an errant orb after a failed defensive clear — and beat Tribe high right to make the score 3-1.
With the Spartans scoring by Michael Norris only four minutes and five seconds later at 32:11, Lester only needed 40 seconds to answer — scoring off a Pedro Carraschal assist to cut the deficit in half again (4-2).
Carraschal stole a Spartan midfield pass and forwarded it to Lester, who streaked past the Alexander defense.
Over the next few minutes, the Blue Devils gained control of the action — and persistence paid off only 10 minutes later when Lester hit for his hat trick.
Lester’s three goals gave Gallia Academy hope for the final 21 minutes, but it was the hole the Blue Devils dug themselves that did them in.
Carter Carr needed just 38 seconds to put Alexander on the board, then Ryan Davidson’s dribbling and shot made it 2-0 at the 16-minute mark.
Kaden Schaller scored the third Spartan goal with 3:21 left in the opening half, as Todd Norris assisted on Davidson’s goal while Michael Norris notched the assist of Schaller.
Schaller scored off a rebound attempt in traffic, as Gallia Academy goalkeeper Cameron Wilt was injured in a collision and did not return.
Alexander had dominated the first half of play, but needed — as it turned out — the decisive goal by Michael Norris with 32:11 to go.
In fact, the Spartans executed a corner kick, in which Zach Scripp placed the freebie in the middle of the scrum where Norris headed it past backup keeper Andrew Toler.
Both Toler in the second half and Wilt in the first had many Spartan shots sent directly at them.
Alexander doubled up the Devils in shots, 17-9, as Toler made nine saves over his final 43-plus minutes in net.
Wilt made four saves in the first half.
Lester recorded all of the Blue Devils’ nine shots.
The Spartans also amassed nine corner kicks compared to Gallia Academy’s two.
The Blue Devils return to non-league play, and will be home for the first time this year, on Tuesday night against Athens.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106