GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — These Hornets definitely knew how to crash the party.
Visiting Coal Grove scored on its first three possessions, churned out 419 yards of total offense and finished plus-1 in turnover differential on Friday night en route to a 33-20 victory over Gallia Academy during a Week 7 Ohio Valley Conference Homecoming contest at Memorial Field in the Old French City.
The Hornets (6-1, 4-0 OVC) maintained their lone perch atop the league standings with a steady ground game that produced four touchdowns and 338 rushing yards, with 211 of those rushing yards coming after halftime.
The Blue Devils (3-4, 2-2) — thanks to an 89-yard opening kickoff return by James Armstrong — built an early 7-0 lead just 12 seconds into regulation, but the hosts surrendered consecutive TD scores on the Hornets’ next three possessions as the Red and Black built a 21-6 lead midway through the second period.
GAHS closed back to within a possession with a 4-yard TD run by Boo Pullins with 1:22 left in the half, allowing the Blue and White to close to within 21-14 at the intermission. The hosts, however, were never closer the rest of the way.
Neither team scored in the third stanza, but Coal Grove scored from four yards out on the opening play of the fourth — giving the guests a 27-14 edge just three seconds into the finale.
CGHS tacked on another TD with 4:33 remaining for its largest lead of the night at 33-14, but Cory Call hauled in a 64-yard TD pass from Justin McClelland on the very first play of the hosts’ ensuing possession — making it a 33-20 contest with 4:17 remaining.
The Hornets strung together one final drive that ate up the remaining four-plus minutes of regulation, allowing the guests to leave with their fourth straight victory while also staying unbeaten in conference play.
The Blue Devils produced 298 yards of total offense, with 140 of those coming in the first half. The difference, however, was that the hosts managed only nine of their 81 rushing yards after halftime, while Coal Grove churned out 211 rushing yards in the second half.
After the game, GAHS coach Alex Penrod was disappointed in the final outcome — but noted that his troops gave a very respectable performance.
“I was very proud of the effort these young men gave tonight. Obviously the score doesn’t show what our ultimate goal was, but we kept fighting and battling until the very last second … and that’s what we’ve asked of them,” Penrod said. “We knew coming into the year that this wasn’t something that we were going to fix overnight, but we are changing some of the positives like believing in one another and never giving up until the final whistle.
“We did those little things tonight, so now we just have to continue to grow and learn from nights like tonight so that we can take those next steps forward. The kids are giving us some quality minutes, now it’s just about putting it all together to reach our goal each week.”
The Blue Devils struck first as Armstrong took the opening kickoff from the left side and went untouched for 89 yards up the right side for an early 6-0 advantage at the 11:48 mark. It was also Gallia Academy’s only lead of the night.
CGHS followed with a six-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Nate Harmon to Joey Workman. Evan Holmes added a successful PAT kick with 9:06 remaining, giving the guests a 7-6 edge.
The Blue Devils were forced to punt on their ensuing drive, then the Hornets marched 68 yards in nine plays before building on their first quarter lead.
Aaron Music completed the drive with a 7-yard run as the first quarter clock expired, giving the Red and Black a 13-6 lead after 12 minutes of play.
Music came away with an interception on the following GAHS drive, then Coal Grove covered 59 yards in nine plays as Harmon capped things with a 1-yard run. Music added a successful PAT run at the 5:35 mark, allowing the Hornets to secure a 21-6 cushion.
Gallia Academy answered with a 10-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard Pullins run. Caleb Henry hauled in a pass from McClelland for a two-point conversion, making it a 21-14 contest with 1:22 remaining until halftime.
Both teams traded possessions to start the third period, with Coal Grove retaining possession at its own 19 with 3:15 remaining.
The guests put together a 9-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a Kyle Sites 4-yard scamper three seconds into the fourth, making it a 27-14 contest.
Following a loss of downs for the Blue Devils, Kimo Baldwin capped a 9-play, 73-yard drive with a 25-yard run at the 4:33 mark for a 33-14 advantage.
McClelland found Call on a 64-yard bomb just 16 seconds later as the hosts wrapped up the 13-point outcome.
Coal Grove claimed a 23-17 advantage in first downs and outgained GAHS by a 419-298 overall margin. The guests were flagged four times for 30 yards, while the Blue Devils were penalized three times for 30 yards.
Pullins led Gallia Academy with 49 yards on 19 carries, followed by McClelland with 24 yards on 10 attempts. McClelland was also 15-of-22 passing for 217 yards, throwing one touchdown and zero interceptions.
John Stout led the GAHS wideouts with six catches for 63 yards, followed by Call with four grabs for 97 yards and a score.
Sites paced the Hornet rushing attack with 161 yards on 25 carries, followed by Harmon with 94 yards on 14 tries. Harmon was also 4-of-9 passing for 81 yards, all of which came in the first half.
Jeb Jones led the CGHS wideouts with two catches for 44 yards. Workman (29 yards) and Sam Angelo (8 yards) also had a reception apiece for the victors.
With three weeks left in the regular season, Penrod believes that these Blue Devils still have a lot that they can accomplish — even if the OVC championship is likely out of the picture.
“We’re definitely not done. These kids have worked too hard to get where we are right now and these kids still have high expectations on finishing out the season,” Penrod said. “A league title might be out of our grasp at this point, but we still have a chance to have a say in who wins the league title over the next three weeks. We also have a chance to finish with a winning record, so I’m sure the kids will be ready to give each of our next three opponents our best shot.”
Gallia Academy returns to action Friday when it travels to Rock Hill for a Week 8 OVC contest at 7 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.