GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — The Blue Devil defense came through when it mattered most.
The Gallia Academy football team stopped non-conference guest Meigs on a pair of fourth downs in the fourth quarter on Friday at Memorial Field, securing the Blue Devils’ 22-19 victory in the season-opener for both teams.
Meigs (0-1) got the ball first and went 66 yards in six plays, with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Coulter Cleland to Griffin Cleland. Matt Barr kicked in the extra-point, giving the guests a 7-0 lead 2:56 into play.
The Blue Devils (1-0) answered the first chance they got, as Hudson Shamblin found the end zone on a five-yard run at the end of a nine-play, 54-yard drive. GAHS — which converted fourth down and third down tries on the drive — led 8-7 with 4:37 left in the opening quarter, as Mason Skidmore hauled in the two-point conversion pass from Brody Fellure.
The GAHS defense forced a three-and-out, and then on the second play of the next Blue Devil drive, Fellure found Kenyon Franklin for a 30-yard scoring pass. Briar Williams ran in the two-point conversion, making the hosts’ lead 16-7 with 2:11 to go in the first period.
The Marauders punted again to close the opening quarter, but forced a three-and-out to start the second. The Maroon and Gold took the ball from their own 29 to the GAHS 32 before turning the ball over on downs.
Gallia Academy fumbled two plays later and Barr recovered for the guests 37 yards from paydirt. On the final play of the half, Coulter Cleland found Dillon Howard for 30-yard touchdown, bringing the Marauders within three, at 16-13.
The Blue and White were back up by nine 2:25 into the second half, with a five-play, 59-yard drive, punctuated when Williams caught a pass in the backfield and ran 18 yards for the touchdown.
After a pair of punts by each team, Meigs was back to within three points, thanks to a 28-yard touchdown run by Conlee Burnem with 33 seconds left in the third.
Meigs forced GAHS to punt just over two minutes into the finale, and Morgan Roberts blocked the kick, giving the guests the ball near midfield.
The Marauders made it to within five yards of the end zone, but were stuffed in the backfield of a fourth down attempt with four minutes left in the game.
The Blue Devils ran 2:26 seconds off the clock before having to punt back to Meigs.
Meigs converted a fourth-and-15 from the GAHS 42, but was ultimately stopped four plays later, and fell 22-19.
For the game, the Marauders held a 266-to-167 advantage in total offense, including 97-to-65 on the ground, and 169-to-102 in the air. The guests ran 26 more offensive plays than Gallia Academy, and earned a 14-to-10 advantage in first downs. However, Meigs committed 15 penalties for 115 yards, while the Blue Devils were flagged eight times totalling 60 yards.
In the win, Fellure completed 10-of-14 pass attempts for 102 yards and a touchdown, while running nine times for a net gain of 15 yards.
Hudson Shamblin led the Blue Devil rushing attack with 32 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Williams combined three catches and three carries for 46 total yards and a touchdown, while Mason Skidmore caught a team-best four passes for 42 yards. Franklin and Joey Darnbrough caught a pass apiece, with 30 yards and a touchdown by Franklin, and 13 yards from Darnbrough.
For Meigs, Coulter Cleland completed 14-of-31 passes for 169 yards, while picking up a net gain of 11 yards on 13 totes.
Griffin Cleland caught a game-best seven passes for 81 yards and a score. Burnem led Meigs on the ground with 64 yards and a score on 11 totes, while Jake McElroy had 29 total yards after nine carries and two receptions.
Howard and Kolten Thomas also caught two passes apiece for MHS, with Howard earning 39 yards and a touchdown, and Thomas picking up 22 yards. Roberts came up with one reception for 20 yards, converting a fourth down in the fourth quarter.
Next Friday, Gallia Academy travels to Athens and Meigs hosts Belpre.
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