PEDRO, Ohio — To call it quite the comeback would be an understatement.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, they’re still calling it a loss.
That’s because Gallia Academy’s astonishing 40-point fourth quarter and furious rally fell short at Rock Hill on Friday night, as the Blue Devils lost to the host Redmen 56-54 in a high-scoring Ohio Valley Conference football affair.
The Blue Devils — without injured standout linebacker Jacob Campbell — got gashed through the first three quarters, falling well behind at 49-14.
The Redmen did most of their damage in the middle two stanzas, pouring on 20 points in the second and 22 more in the third.
Gallia Academy then trailed 56-26 with only five minutes and nine seconds remaining, as Zak Adkins —who had three touchdown runs — dashed in from 42 yards out.
But the Blue Devils, which racked up 40 fourth-period points, scored four times on Justin McClelland touchdown passes in the final 4:19 — to finally get within 56-54.
Consider, of course, that Rock Hill had its reserve unit in, while the Blue Devils’ starters still played until the end.
The final of those four tosses came with just four seconds remaining, when McClelland completed a 42-yarder to Garrett Burns.
McClelland converted the two-point conversion run to make it 56-54, as GAHS attempted its final of seven onside kickoffs, but the Redmen recovered and sealed the win.
In fact, Gallia Academy only recovered one onside kick, setting up the McClelland to Burns connection after it went three plays and 79 yards on the drive before — with McClelland completing a 15-yard TD pass to Caleb Henry.
The loss marked the third consecutive for the Blue Devils, as both clubs are now 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the league.
The Blue Devils have now dropped their last eight league road tilts, including the last six in only their second season in the OVC.
In addition, as Gallia Academy rushed for only 148 yards on 27 carries, the Blue and White remain winless this season when failing to rush for 230 yards.
Instead, McClelland unleashed an aerial assault, throwing 38 times and completing 24 for 472 yards and five touchdowns.
All five of Gallia Academy’s final TDs came through the air —after McClelland rushed for a 9-yard score for the second time in the game, just 31 seconds into the final quarter.
He gave Gallia Academy its only lead at 8-0 just three minutes in —with his initial 9-yard run and a two-point conversion pass to James Armstrong.
McClleland’s 20-yard strike to Boo Pullins with 7:05 left made it 49-26, as the Blue Devils then answered Adkins’ run with two more touchdown passes in a matter of three minutes and six seconds.
Burns caught the first from McClelland to make it 56-32, then Armstrong’s pitch-and-catch on a flair pass went for 95 yards, as McClelland ran in the two-point conversion to make it a two-score game (56-40) with two minutes to go.
Gallia Academy’s other touchdown was a simple Boo Pullins 2-yard run with 8:51 to play in the first half.
The 14-14 tie was as close as the Blue Devils got to the Redmen before the 56-54 final.
McClelland carried 13 times for 88 yards, as Pullins posted 61 yards on 11 attempts.
Henry had seven receptions for 126 yards for GAHS, as Burns boasted six for 116, John Stout three for 55 and Cory Call four for 44.
Armstrong added 106 yards and Pullins 25 on two catches apiece.
But the Redmen ran right over the Blue Devil defense, rolling up a hefty 444 yards on 61 carries, as both squads punted just twice.
Adkins, who also had TD runs of nine and 60 yards, amounted 192 yards on only 15 rushes —while Cameron Barnette burned the Blue Devils for five touchdown runs, including a 54-yarder midway through the third quarter.
Barnette finished with 190 yards on 29 carries, as Rock Hill had just two pass attempts with one completion.
Gallia Academy returns home, and returns to OVC action, next Friday night against Ironton.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106