GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — The guests win it again.
One year after Gallia Academy clinched a share of their Ohio Valley Conference championship on the road at Tanks Stadium, the Fighting Tigers returned the favor, with Ironton clinching a share of the 2019 OVC title with a 52-0 decision on Friday at Memorial Field in Gallia County.
Gallia Academy (8-1, 4-1 OVC) — No. 5 in the Division IV AP Poll — went three-and-out on its first two drives of the game, and punted on all-3 of its first quarter possessions.
Ironton (8-1, 5-0) — ranked sixth in the Division V AP Poll — covered 52 yards in six plays on its first offensive try, but settled for a 32-yard field goal from Avery Book for the 3-0 lead 4:14 into play.
The Blue Devil defense forced a three-and-out on the Fighting Tigers’ second drive, but the guests cashed in on their third chance.
On the fifth play of the IHS drive — three plays after nearly losing possession after a forced fumble from GAHS linebacker Cade Roberts — the Orange and Black were in the end zone for the first time on a 50-yard pass from Gage Salyers to Colin Freeman. Book made his first of five point-after kicks to make the Ironton lead 10-0 10 seconds into the second quarter.
After a three-and-out by the hosts, Gunnar Crawford blocked the Blue Devil punt attempt and gave the guests possession 15 yards from paydirt. On the very next play, IHS senior Seth Fosson ran into the end zone and gave IHS a 17-0 edge with 10:33 left in the half.
The Blue and White went three-and-out again, and this time Kyle Howell returned the GAHS punt 58 yards for the touchdown, making the margin 24-0 with 9:00 left in the period.
Gallia Academy had a pair of first downs on its next possession, but fell a yard short of moving the chains for a third time and gave the ball back to the guests at IHS 28.
The Fighting Tigers were in the the end zone on the next play, with Reid Carrico catching a 72-yard touchdown pass from Salyers with 3:00 left in the half.
The lone sack of the game set the Blue Devils back seven yards on first down, and they wound up punting three plays later.
Ironton’s fourth offensive play of the quarter resulted in its fifth touchdown, with Jordan Grizzle hauling in a 60-yard scoring pass from Salyers with 1:22 left.
GAHS picked up 34 yards in the remainder of the half, but fumbled the ball away and went into the break trailing 38-0.
Ironton began the second half with a five-play, 61-yard drive and led 45-0 after an 18-yard touchdown run by Carrico and the first of two point-after kicks by Izsak Unger.
Gallia Academy punted after three plays on its first drive of the second half, but the Blue Devil defense forced Ironton to punt the ball back eight plays later.
A 30-yard run by Briar Williams on the first play of the fourth quarter was the Blue Devils’ most successful offensive play of the night, but four plays later, a missed 36-yard field goal attempt gave the ball back to the Fighting Tigers.
Ironton punctuated the 52-0 victory at the 4:25 mark of the fourth, with a 29-yard touchdown run by Kameron Browning.
Third-year GAHS head coach Alex Penrod hopes his team bounces back from its first setback of the year, because the ultimate goal of returning to the postseason is still attainable.
“The true character of what this team’s about will show in the coming weeks,” Penrod said. “We’re still not guaranteed Week 11, we still have to take care of business next week. We have another opponent and another battle.
”They’re whole goal is to get to Week 11. They have to take care of business, the whole mentality has to be ‘one more.’ Do they want to play one more game? It’s on them. Our staff is going to prepare our young men, and hopefully they want to accept that challenge and want to keep playing some football once that regular season ends.”
In the game, Ironton earned advantages of 16-to-5 in first downs, 474-to-141 in total offense, 292-to-54 in rushing yards and 182-to-87 in passing yards. IHS forced the game’s only turnover and was penalized five times for 40 yards, while GAHS was sent back 30 yards on four flags.
Leading the Gallia Academy offense, Michael Beasy had 16 carries and one reception for a total of 48 yards, Williams combined three receptions with two carries for 36 total yards, while Ben Cox had 36 yards on a trio of grabs.
Noah Vanco completed 13-of-18 passes for 87 yards, Roberts had three catches and one carry for a total of 16 yards, while Brody Fellure ran once for four yards. Cameron Webb, Donevyn Woodson and Trent Johnson caught a pass apiece in the contest, gaining 13, nine and minus-2 yards respectively.
For Ironton, Salyers — who was 3-of-5 passing for 182 yards and three touchdowns — ran four times for 72 yards to lead the guests on the ground. Carrico claimed 107 yards and two touchdowns on six carries and one catch, while Browning had 64 yards and a score on seven totes.
The Blue and White — who say goodbye to winning streaks of 15 straight regular season games, 14 consecutive OVC games and 10 home games in a row — wrap up the 2019 regular season at South Point on Friday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.