ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — It’s only Week 1, but the Blue Devil defense appears to be in mid-season form.
The Gallia Academy football team forced two turnovers and held non-conference host Meigs to just 80 total yards of offense on Friday night at Farmers Bank Stadium, as the Blue Devils came away with a 24-0 victory.
After a weather delay postponed kickoff for more than an hour, the Blue Devils (1-0) covered 45 yards on the game’s opening drive, but were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Andrew Toler at the 7:39 mark of the first quarter.
After a three-and-out by the Marauders (0-1), the GAHS offense took over with just 35 yards to paydirt. Gallia Academy made to within 15 yards of the end zone, but penalties backed the Blue and White up to midfield and forced a punt.
Meigs picked up a couple of first downs on its following possession, but wound up punting back to the guests with 9:56 left in the half.
After a flag on their first play of the ensuing drive, the Blue Devils were in the end zone for the first time on the next snap, as junior James Armstrong broke a 60-yard touchdown run up the middle. Toler added the point-after and gave GAHS a 10-0 lead with 9:28 left in the second period.
After three punts, two by MHS and one by GAHS, the Blue Devils looked to add on before the half, covering 36 yards in 2:20, only to have time run out.
Meigs picked up 20 yards on its first two plays of the second half, but then GAHS senior Cade Roberts intercepted an MHS pass at midfield.
Gallia Academy had its 38-yard field goal attempt blocked 3:23 into the second half, but Meigs fumbled the ball away at the GAHS 45, with Roberts recovering for the Blue Devils with 7:11 left in the third.
The Blue and White called Michael Beasy’s number for four consecutive runs, the final of which went 31 yards and ended in the end zone. Toler’s extra-point kick gave the guests a 17-0 lead with 6:02 remaining in the third.
The Marauders came up short on a fourth down try on their next drive, but Meigs regained possession after Matt Barr recovered a Blue Devil fumble at the MHS 20.
Meigs was forced to punt on its first play of the fourth quarter, and then both offenses had a drive ended on fourth down.
GAHS capped off its 24-0 victory with 5:52 to play, as Beasy scored on a three-yard run and Toler made the point-after kick.
Following the triumph, GAHS head coach Alex Penrod talked about his team buying in to the ‘relentless effort’ attitude, and also commended his defense for executing the game plan.
“There’s two words that we’ve been talking to this team about — in all-3 phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams — and that’s relentless effort,” said Penrod. “When you get relentless effort from every guy you throw on the field, you have nights and outcomes like we did tonight.
“Fortunately, we were able to put some pressure on their key player, forced him to move around and get outside of the pocket. Our guys up front defensively did a tremendous job, really bringing pressure with just four guys. The secondary guys did a tremendous job keeping everybody in front of them. We let them kind of nickle-and-dime us, but we didn’t want to give up those big plays.”
For the Marauders, first-year head coach David Tennant noted his team’s effort, but admitted the Blue Devils’ ground-and-pound wore them down.
“Our boys fought, I’m proud of them,” Tennant said. “They showed the heart and toughness that you can build something special with. As the game went on, we wore down and those small holes turned into bigger holes. They leaned on us and wore us down. Defensively, we had a very good scheme, and it worked. In the first half, our defense played exceptionally. (Gallia Academy) has a tremendous amount of speed, and they beat us between the tackles. Our game plan was to bottle them in, and it worked, but as the game went on, they wore us down a little bit.
“I have a tremendous coaching staff, and I have full faith that they won’t be sleeping tonight. They care just as much about these boys as anybody in this world, so we’re going to work and we’re going to put this together. We’re going to put our boys in a better situation next week.”
For the game, GAHS held a 15-to-7 edge in first downs and a 351-to-80 advantage in total offense, including 245-to-11 on the ground. Meigs committed nine penalties for 78 yards, while GAHS was flagged 17 times for a total of 180 yards.
Coach Penrod noted that his team is able to draw from real-life experiences when they face adversity like injuries and penalties on the field.
“I think before the season started we were faced with some adversity,” Penrod said. “Not only my personal life, but these kids go through battles every single day. It’s part of life, but it’s also part of the game. These kids never stop believing. It’s unfortunate to get penalties, and we’ll have to clean all those things up, but they continually battled, continually put pressure on and continually pounded the football.”
Beasy paced the GAHS rushing attack with 134 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Armstrong had 102 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, to go with four yards on one reception, all in the first half. Carson Call carried the ball twice and earned 18 yards, while Briar Williams picked up eight yards on three tries.
Gallia Academy junior Noah Vanco completed 7-of-12 passes for 106 yards in the win. Roberts led the GAHS receivers with 69 yards on three receptions. Ben Cox caught two passes for 31 yards, while Donevyn Woodson had a two-yard catch.
MHS sophomore Coulter Cleland — who was 12-of-17 passing for 69 yards with an interception — carried the ball 10 times for a net-gain of eight yards. Abe Lundy led the hosts on the ground with 15 yards on three totes. Jake McElroy carried the ball four times for a net-gain of one yard, while hauling in one six-yard pass.
Wyatt Hoover and Landon Acree caught three passes apiece for the Maroon and Gold, gaining 31 and 10 yards respectively. Cameron Burnem finished with seven yards and Logan Eskew picked up one, on two receptions apiece, while Wes Metzger hauled in one pass for 14 yards.
This marks the Blue Devils’ second-straight win in the head-to-head series with Meigs.
Both squads will be on the road in Week 2, with Meigs traveling to Rock Hill on Friday, and Gallia Academy visiting River Valley on Saturday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100