CENTENARY, Ohio — The Blue Devils are marching on.
The Gallia Academy soccer team claimed its first district berth in over a decade Saturday night with a 6-1 victory over visiting South Point in a Division II sectional final held at Lester Field in Gallia County.
The fourth-seeded Blue Devils (6-10-1) never trailed in the contest, as the hosts outshot the Pointers (8-7-2) by a 24-18 overall margin — which included a 14-12 advantage in shots in goal.
The game itself, however, proved to be quite the contested battle for 70 minutes — until the flood gates opened late for the Blue and White.
Gallia Academy scored first after Hunter Bennett netted a pass from Isaiah Lester in the 17th minute, which ultimately allowed the hosts to take a 1-0 cushion into the intermission. GAHS owned an 11-7 edge in shots at the break.
Both teams went scoreless through the first 10 minutes of the second half, but fifth-seeded SPHS finally caught a big break in the 52nd minute. Jordan Overstreet made the most of a penalty kick with 28:01 left in regulation, which tied the contest at one.
The momentum, however, quickly shifted back in Gallia Academy’s favor as Logan Carpenter scored an unassisted goal in the 58th minute, giving the hosts a permanent lead at 2-1.
The intensity picked up over the next 10-plus minutes, but neither team had anything but missed opportunities to show for it. Then, in the 69th minute, Gallia Academy found its full stride.
Lester scored his first goal of the night with 11:07 showing on the clock with a strong boot in front of the net from 15 yards out, which made it a 3-1 contest. Lester then netted a pass from Bennett in 71st minute to make it a 4-1 GAHS lead.
Carpenter added his second goal of the game in the 72nd minute for a 5-1 edge, then Bennett finished things off with his second goal of the night in the 77th minute — wrapping up the five-goal triumph.
Besides snapping a four-match losing skid, the Blue Devils are now headed to the D-2 district semifinals at Logan High School. GAHS will face top-seeded Circleville in the first of two semifinals at 5 p.m. Tuesday night.
First-year Gallia Academy soccer coach Richard Isberner was ecstatic for his players afterwards, mainly in seeing the joy that comes with advancing in the tournament. He also noted that as proud a moment as this is for his troops, he’s glad they have another match to play.
“When I took this job, I’d heard from people that we couldn’t win and that we wouldn’t be any good. Honestly, it’s been a blessed year for us, and I think we’ve proven a lot of people wrong,” Isberner said. “These kids have played their hearts out all year long, so to see them enjoy this moment — it’s all been worth it.
“With that said, we still have another game to play. I’m sure they’ll once again give us everything that they have.”
South Point claimed a 5-3 edge in corner kicks. Caden Wilt made 11 saves in goal for the Blue Devils, while Eli Lucas stopped eight shots in net for the guests.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.