PROCTORVILLE, Ohio — As it turned out, Keedrick Cunningham had the final answer.
That’s because Cunningham accounted for four touchdowns and three rushing yards shy of an even 200, and the host Fairland Dragons downed the Gallia Academy Blue Devils 49-32 on Friday night in an Ohio Valley Conference football shootout inside Jim Mayo Stadium.
Cunningham had a hat trick of touchdown runs on 20 carries, including a pair in a wild fourth quarter that saw the Dragons double up Gallia Academy 28-14 — and erase a 32-29 deficit with six-and-a-half minutes remaining.
In fact, Fairland finished the game with the final 20 points in a matter of five minutes and 21 seconds, including Cunningham’s scoring scampers of 46 and 15 yards — sandwiched around a 7-yard TD dive by Chase Fisher.
It was a back-and-forth thriller through three-and-half periods that featured eight lead changes, as James Armstrong’s 88-yard kickoff return for the Blue Devils made it 32-29 — and gave GAHS its final lead.
However, after Cunningham’s 46-yard burst put the Dragons back on top 35-32, Gallia Academy fumbled at its own 25-yard line.
Fisher finished off the short drive to finally make it a double-digit Dragon lead — combined with Joel Lambiotte’s two-point conversion run.
Lambiotte then intercepted his Gallia Academy quarterback counterpart Justin McClelland with 3:35 remaining, and returned the ball to the Blue Devil 30, where Cunningham covered the final 15 yards just four plays later.
With the win, the Dragons remain atop the OVC at a perfect 3-0 —joining Coal Grove as the only undefeated clubs in the entire conference.
Gallia Academy — whose Division IV, Region 16 playoff hopes took a huge hit with the loss — slipped to 2-1 in the league, and lost the “Battle for the Old Coal Bucket” for the second consecutive year.
The Blue Devils have now dropped their last seven league road tilts, including the last five in only their second season in the OVC.
Both teams are now 3-3 overall.
Cunningham, in addition to his 197 rushing yards which was part of a team 287, had a 42-yard punt return for a score with only a minute remaining in the second quarter.
Taylor Hunt’s extra-point kick made it 15-12 in favor of Fairland at halftime.
The Dragons rushed 36 times altogether, as Lambiotte added 51 yards on five carries and Fisher 39 yards on 11 attempts.
Prior to Cunningham’s heroics in the final 5:21, Fisher’s 2-yard run in the third period put the Dragons ahead 21-18, before Lambiotte’s 15-yard dart made it a third three-point Fairland lead at 29-26.
Lambiotte completed two of his three passes, as the incompletion was actually an interception.
Jacob Campbell paced the Blue Devils with 89 yards on 23 carries, including touchdown runs of nine, six and three yards in the second, third and fourth quarters respectively.
Campbell’s’ hat trick of scores gave Gallia Academy leads of 12-8, 18-15 and 26-21, as Cory Call caught a 20-yard pass from McClelland on the game’s opening drive to make it 6-0.
McClelland, who rushed for 43 yards on 16 attempts, completed 10-of-22 passes for 96 yards — but also threw three key interceptions.
Garrett Burns (32 yards) and Campbell (17 yards) caught three passes apiece, while Call collected two for 29.
The Blue Devils return home, and return to OVC action, next Friday night against Coal Grove.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106