CENTENARY, Ohio —Now this was the most dramatic chapter yet in the Blue Devils’ storybook season.
And the best part is — the 2016 Gallia Academy High School soccer squad will be playing on into Tuesday night.
That’s because the host Blue Devils, in Thursday’s Division II sectional championship tilt at Lester Field, defeated the Waverly Tigers following an epic penalty-kick shootout — and captured its second consecutive sectional title in the sport of soccer.
The third-seeded Blue Devils and the sixth-seeded Tigers battled to 1-1 draw throughout regulation — and two 15-minute overtime periods couldn’t settle matters either.
Thus, the match moved into the shootout stage, where the Blue Devils made four penalty kicks compared to only one for the Tigers.
With the victory, the Blue Devils improved upon their best record in school history at 11-5-1 — and advanced to Tuesday night’s Division II district semifinal against second-seeded Fairfield Union.
The Falcons defeated McClain 5-1 in another sectional final on Thursday, as Gallia Academy and Fairfield Union will face off at Logan High School at 7 p.m.
While weather seemed to impact most of Thursday’s sectional matches, the Blue Devils did bounce back from allowing the equalizer by the Tigers with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
After Isaiah Lester’s go-ahead goal for Gallia Academy with 27 minutes left in the opening half, the Tigers kept the Blue Devils off the scoreboard for the final 83 minutes of actual running time.
But Lester paced a fivesome of Blue Devils which went a perfect 4-of-4 on the PKs, as Gallia Academy already locked up the outcome before the shootout even reached the fifth selected shooters.
“Sectional champs baby!” said an elated Gallia Academy coach Richard Isberner. “It was not our best performance, but my kids fought until the last whistle. Could not have asked to coach a better group of kids. We are making history and hopefully we are continuing to make history.”
That the Blue Devils are.
Already building upon the most victories in a single season, GAHS also won its first league championship in the sport — a share of the Ohio Valley Conference title.
Hence, they wanted to write the next historic chapter on Thursday — and got off on the right note when Lester scored off a Pedro Carrascal assist.
Gallia Academy outshot Waverly 22-13, and doubled up the Tigers 12-6 in corner kicks.
Lester and Miguel Velasco posted six shots apiece, while Carrascal and Justin Day each dialed up four.
After the two overtimes, Isberner’s order of shooters were Lester, Jacob Ratliff, Carrascal, Velasco and Day.
The first four all converted on their attempts, while Waverly missed its opening two shots.
For the senior striker Lester, his two tallies gave him his 33rd and 34th markers on the season.
The third Tiger to shoot trimmed the margin to 3-1, but Velasco’s PK officially clinched the contest.
Gallia Academy goalkeeper Caden Wilt was credited with five saves, as the Tigers ended their season at an even 7-7-2.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils advance on to Logan Chieftain Stadium — in what will be their next attempt at writing a storybook chapter.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106
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