MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Nothing covers up flaws on a gridiron like a good old-fashioned rushing attack.
Despite seven fumbles and 110 yards in penalties, visiting Miller churned out 244 of its 360 yards of total offense on the ground Friday night en route to a 26-16 victory over South Gallia during a Week 4 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup of winless teams in Gallia County.
The Falcons (1-3, 1-2 TVC Hocking) found themselves in an early 8-0 hole after a fumble led to the Rebels’ only lead of the night, but Miller responded with scores in each quarter and 26 consecutive points en route to a comfortable 26-8 cushion midway through the fourth period.
The host Rebels (0-4, 0-3) — who amassed only 84 of their 246 total yards on the ground — finally came up with their first offensive touchdown with 3:05 left in regulation, but South Gallia came no closer than the final 10-point outcome the rest of the way.
Miller — which ended a four-game losing skid against SGHS — forced four turnovers and finished plus-1 in turnover differential on the night, despite being flagged 13 times for 110 yards in penalties. South Gallia — which recovered three MHS fumbles — was penalized five times for 55 yards.
South Gallia fumbled away its opening possession of the game, but the Falcons returned the favor on their opening drive — as the guests marched down to the SGHS 27-yard line. Colton Pargeon had the ball stripped away on a third-and-2 attempt, and the Rebels’ Brandon Campbell picked up the loose ball and scampered 73 yards to paydirt.
Campbell’s score — combined with a successful Landon Hutchinson PAT run — gave the hosts an early 8-0 cushion with 7:27 left in the opening canto.
Miller, however, caught a better bounce on its next drive, as the Falcons marched 62 yards in nine plays for their first score. Facing a second-and-goal at the Rebel four, Kaleb McKinniss took a handoff and appeared to be headed toward the goal line when the ball popped out on the ground. Nick Lanning fell on the loose ball in the endzone with 3:39 left in the first, allowing MHS to pull within 8-6 after one quarter of play.
South Gallia suffered a loss of downs on its ensuing drive, which made it down to the Miller 25-yard line. Eleven plays and 75 yards later, the Falcons had their first lead of the night with 4:20 remaining in the first half after Garrett Sinift completed the drive with a five-yard scoring run — giving the guests a 13-8 advantage at the intermission.
Kody McKinniss delivered the back-breaker on the opening kickoff of the second half, as the freshman rumbled 79 yards down to the Rebel six — setting up a first-and-goal. Two plays and six yards later, Pargeon scored on a six-yard run with 11:06 left in the period — giving Miller a 20-8 third-quarter lead.
Miller ate up significant amounts of clock in the second half by running the football, and the final nail in the coffin came with 5:55 left in regulation — as Dustin Spencer bullied his way in from six yards out. Spencer’s run capped a four-play, 43-yard drive that gave MHS its biggest lead of the night at 26-8.
Kane Hutchinson hauled in a six-yard scoring pass from Landon Hutchinson with 3:05 remaining, and the duo hooked up again through the air on the two-point conversion attempt — making it a 26-16 contest. The final scoring drive of the night covered 72 yards in seven plays.
SGHS retained one last possession with 1:21 remaining, but Miller’s Skylar Baker came up with an interception with less than 30 seconds left in regulation. MHS took one snap, went to a knee and started celebrating their first win of the 2012 campaign.
Miller claimed a 15-12 edge in first downs and finished the night with 116 more yards offensively than the hosts. Miller had 56 carries for 244 rushing yards and added another 116 yards through the air, while the Rebels had 26 rushes for 84 yards while passing for another 246 yards.
Landon Hutchinson led the Rebels ground game with 45 yards on 18 attempts, while Ethan Spurlock added three totes for 30 yards. Jarred Northup and Dakota Wroten each had two carries for eight yards and four yards, respectively.
Landon Hutchinson finished the night 13-of-29 passing for 162 yards, which included a touchdown and two interceptions. Shane Brumfield led the wideouts with 72 yards on two catches, while Northup had 42 yards on two grabs. Kane Hutchinson had three receptions for 31 yards, Spurlock hauled in four passes for nine yards and Jared Nolan had two grabs for eight yards.
Kaleb McKinniss paced Miller’s rushing attack with 79 yards on 15 carries, followed by Pargeon with 66 yards on 12 tries. Spencer added 44 yards on five carries, while Sinift had a dozen yards on 15 attempts.
Sinift was 5-of-10 passing for 116 yards, and Kaleb McKinniss led the wideouts with three catches for 67 yards. Kody McKinniss also had two receptions for 49 yards.
Campbell, Northup and Bruce Rutt each had a fumble recovery for the hosts.
South Gallia — which is now 0-3 at home this fall — starts a two-game road stand next Friday when it travels to Eastern for a Week 5 TVC Hocking matchup at East Shade River Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.