MERCERVILLE, Ohio — South Gallia’s offense is three yards and a cloud of dust.
Waterford’s offense — on Friday night — was three plays and put more points on the scoreboard.
That’s because the visiting Wildcats, in scoring on seven of their eight first-half possessions, scored six times on three or fewer plays — and cruised to an easy 54-8 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division football victory at South Gallia High School.
As the host Rebels either punted following three-and-out possessions, or committed four first-half turnovers, Waterford was scoring seemingly at will — en route to officially taking over sole possession of first-place in the TVC-Hocking.
The win raised the Wildcats’ record to 6-1, as Waterford continues its best start since 2007 — when it finished at 9-1.
In addition, combined with Trimble’s 42-14 victory at Southern on Friday, the Wildcats are alone atop the TVC-Hocking at 5-0.
The Rebels, on the other hand, fell to 2-5 — and 1-4 in the division.
South Gallia also saw its five-game win streak against Waterford snapped, as the Wildcats last defeated the Rebels in 2010 — their first year in the TVC.
Truth be told, Friday night’s Homecoming matchup pitted a talented, fast and experienced wide-open Waterford club against the young Rebels — whose double-wing double-tight run-oriented offense is not predicated to play from behind.
The Wildcats scored the opening 54 points, including 28 in the first quarter and 20 in the second.
Leading 48-0 at halftime, and with the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule in effect for the entire second half, the Wildcats ran just six plays in the final 24 minutes — but needed only Cody Harris’ 90-yard return on the opening second-half kickoff for their final score.
The Wildcats, with all but 17 second-half rushing yards, racked up 313 total yards and eight scores— including 235 rushing yards on 29 carries with six TDs.
They scored on three drives of only two plays, and three more on just three snaps, as their longest scoring drive was a nine-play, 67-yard march that consumed three minutes and 53 seconds.
The other five drives were all under 1:09, including three in under an astounding 19 ticks.
“You have to give Waterford credit. They made us look bad,” said South Gallia coach Jason Peck. “Good teams like that will make teams like us with our age and our inexperience look bad and our mistakes more amplified. They did a good job and they are well-coached. Those kids have been starting for three or four years over there. They will be a handful for anyone.”
Especially given the Wildcats’ team speed.
“The game speed that Waterford had is the type of overall game speed we haven’t seen this year,” said Peck. “Their offensive line, linebackers, the whole team overall, Waterford is a very fast football team. And they are physical when they get to the ball also.”
That, along with the Rebels punting five times in the first half — including one which was blocked to set up the final touchdown of the opening quarter.
South Gallia’s first four punts followed three-and-outs, as they also fumbled twice to set up short Waterford drives — followed by interceptions on the Rebels’ final two possessions in the half.
In fact, the Rebels’ first first down was recorded at the 10:56 mark of the second quarter, but South Gallia lost its second fumble on the very next play.
In all, South Gallia fumbled seven times and lost four, and didn’t complete a pass on any of its five attempts.
“We probably had six or seven fumbles again tonight, so we have to take care of ourselves and the ball better,” said Peck. “Offensively, we had some good efforts at times. But staying on blocks and things of that nature when we play good teams, we seem to not drive as long as we do the lesser opponents.”
Despite running 57 plays compared to 35 for Waterford, the Rebels only managed 181 yards of total offense.
They rushed 52 times, as Johnny Sheets led the way with 92 yards on 21 carries.
Jeffrey Sheets added 61 yards on 11 attempts, as South Gallia gained 82 yards in the first half and 99 in the second.
Both of Waterford’s punts followed three-and-out possessions in the second half, as South Gallia averted the shutout with a massive 17-play, 61-yard scoring drive that picked up five first downs.
Covering the final three-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, and the opening six-and-a-half minutes of the fourth, the Rebels held the ball and finally scored — all on running plays and capped off by Colten Coughenour’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Coughenour then completed a pass to Jeffrey Sheets for the two-point conversion.
By then, it was just a matter of what the final score would read.
The Wildcats notched their only touchdown toss for their opening touchdown — which consisted of back-to-back wide receiver screens to Tyler McCutcheon from quarterback Isaac Huffman.
On Waterford’s first play following a South Gallia three-and-out, Huffman threw to McCutcheon on the right for 17 yards to the Rebel 43-yard-line.
The next play was the same play going to the left — as McCutcheon caught the pass, raced up the sideline, and evaded tacklers all the way to the end zone.
Harris, who scored on a 51-yard end-around run to the left to make it 21-0, made his first six extra-point kicks before missing his seventh and final try.
The only other pass that Huffman completed was an 18-yarder to Taylor Strahler, as Waterford’s ground game accounted for the other 218 yards and six scores in the final 22:06 of the first half.
Braden Bellville led the attack with 77 yards and a touchdown on a dozen carries, followed by 55 yards and two touchdowns by McCutcheon.
Huffman had four carries for 11 yards, and scored on TD dives of one and two yards.
The young Rebels return to the road, and return to TVC-Hocking Division action, next Friday night at Wahama.
Peck said it’s now all about his young group finishing the season strong.
“We have to get mentally tougher. We have a very young group going against four of the top eight teams in our (playoff) region. That’s rough for a young team to go against those teams, but it’s also an opportunity to get better,” he said. “Our kids fought hard and tried hard. I’m proud of them for coming in and keep plugging and coming to work every day. We’ll see what happens as we finish the season out.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106