HEMLOCK, Ohio — The Rebels handled their business well. Now they may have an even better job lined up for next week.
The South Gallia football team kept its postseason aspirations alive Friday night with an emphatic 61-26 thumping of host Miller in a Week 10 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division finale for both programs at Walter Harrop Field.
The Rebels (6-4, 5-3 TVC Hocking) needed a victory to keep their Division VII, Region 25 playoff hopes afloat, and the guests wasted little time in making those dreams a reality after jumping out to a 22-0 advantage less than three minutes into the second canto.
The Falcons, however, also had Region 25 playoff possibilities entering Friday’s affair, and the hosts showed some resiliency by matching touchdowns with SGHS during the rest of the half — making it a 34-14 contest at the break.
Miller (6-4, 4-4) managed to close its gap down to two possessions following a six-yard scoring pass to Carson Starlin from Cole Geil at the 7:02 mark of the third, but the hosts were never closer than that 34-20 deficit the rest of the way.
In fact, on the ensuing extra-point try — a Miller lineman suffered a gruesome leg injury that ultimately resulted in an almost hour-long pause in play. When play resumed, the Rebels drove home the proverbial nail in the coffin.
South Gallia scored on four of its final five possessions and eventually took a 61-26 cushion with 3:01 left in regulation. Miller mustered only three more offensive snaps over the final minutes on a continuous clock, allowing the Red and Gold to wrap up the 35-point triumph.
In all, the Rebels scored touchdowns on nine of their 13 drives, churned out 595 yards of total offense and finished plus-1 in turnover differential. Conversely, the Falcons mustered 235 yards on offense and had seven first downs total — with only two of those chain-movers coming in the first half.
It was about as complete an effort as one could get, and sixth-year SGHS coach Jason Peck was more than proud of his young men following the game. As he noted, there was no chance at a playoff game if the Rebels didn’t work together to get out of Perry County with a victory.
“We’ve battled some adversity this season, but these kids have really responded over the last four weeks just to get us in this position. They knew they were playing for their postseason lives, and they responded to that challenge,” Peck said. “They are a resilient bunch of kids and I can’t say enough about their work ethic. We played like a playoff team tonight and we hope to be playing next week. If not, we were in the hunt until the end and we won our final game.
“Either way, it was a good night for these kids and the program. I just really hope that we are playing one week from tonight.”
As of Friday night, the unofficial standings on joeeitel.com had South Gallia listed as the eighth and final qualifier in the Region 25 bracket. The Rebels, however, can be eliminated from the postseason if Lancaster Fisher Catholic defeats Whitehall-Yearling on Saturday.
The official OHSAA playoff pairings will be released Sunday morning on ohsaa.org
South Gallia needed only five plays and 1:38 of possession to cover 111 yards in the first quarter, which resulted in an early 14-0 edge. Landon Hutchinson scored on a one-yard run at the 10:30 mark, then Owen Bevan hauled in a 48-yard scoring pass from Hutchinson with 9:20 left in the opening canto.
The score remained that way until the 9:28 mark of the second period as Johnny Sheets bullied his way in from four yards out, making it a 22-0 contest.
The Falcons responded and finally got on the board less than a minute later after Starlin hauled in a 74-yard scoring pass from Geil at the 9:00 mark for a 22-6 game.
SGHS answered with a 13-play, 51-yard scoring drive that lasted over six minutes. Sheets capped things with a two-yard TD run at the 2:58 mark for a 28-6 advantage.
Miller followed with a 7-play, 65-yard drive that turned into points when Garrett Bartley caught a 28-yard TD from Geil with 55 seconds left in the half for a 28-14 contest.
South Gallia, however, covered 75 yards in a mere five plays and 43 seconds to put one last score on the first half scoreboard. Kane Hutchinson pulled in a 22-yard TD pass from Landon Hutchinson while being guarded by two defenders, making it a 34-14 contest headed into halftime.
Sheets and Landon Hutchinson each accounted for a rushing touchdown for SGHS after the break, while Isaiah Geiger twice crossed the goal line in the second half for the Rebels — who led 41-26 headed into the finale. Geil threw touchdown passes to Starlin and Bartley in the third quarter.
The Rebels churned out a whopping 474 rushing yards on 60 carries, which included a trio of 100-yard rushing efforts. Geiger led the guests with 184 yards on 25 carries, while Sheets had 173 yards on 19 attempts. Landon Hutchinson also ran 16 times for 117 yards.
Landon Hutchinson was 4-of-13 passing for 121 yards, throwing two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Kane Hutchinson led the wideouts with three catches for 73 yards.
South Gallia accumulated 25 first downs and was penalized 16 times for 120 yards. Bevan recovered a fumble and Kane Hutchinson had an interception as part of the Rebels’ two takeaways.
Kody McKinniss paced the MHS ground attack with 38 yards on 11 carries, followed by Dekota Tittle with 18 yards on four attempts. Geil finished the night 8-of-21 passing for 176 yards with a pick and four TD passes.
Bartley led the hosts with four grabs for 72 yards. Miller was penalized just seven times for 64 yards.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.