GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Round two.
The Gallia Academy football team advanced to the second round of the Division III region 12 playoffs after a 37-35 victory over Archbishop McNicholas Saturday night on a mud covered Memorial Field.
The Blue Devils (9-2) defense stepped up in key spots, including forcing a fumble in the redzone with under two minutes to go in the game.
“This is phenomenal, I couldn’t have wished for anything more,” said Gallia Academy coach Mike Eddy after Saturday’s game. “The heart of these kids and the heart of a champion shows up every Friday and Saturday night. We never quit, backs against the wall these kids just keep swinging and that’s what they’ve done all year.”
The Rockets (7-4) forced Gallia Academy into a three and out on the game’s opening drive and the AMHS offense set up at it’s own 27 yard line. On the eighth play of the drive McNicholas quarterback Austin Ernst found Jacob Lind in the back of the endzone from four yards out. Pat DiSalvio capped off the 3:17 drive with the extra point, giving the Rockets the 7-0 with 6:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils began driving on their next possession and four plays into the drive found themselves in a fourth and four from the AMHS 17 yard line. Wade Jarrell dropped back to pass and found Reid Eastman at the one yard line. Eastman made the catch, broke a tackle and found paydirt. Dylan Saunders tied the game at seven apiece after the extra point, rounding out the 2:19 drive.
Ernst was back at it again, giving his team the lead at the 2:47 mark of the first on a 10 yard run. DiSalvio again added the extra point to cap off the four play, 65 yard scoring drive.
GAHS was forced to punt on the following drive, but the punt pinned the Rockets back at their own five yard line. On the first play of the second quarter the snap was fumbled into the endzone and the Blue Devils were able to get to Ernst for the safety.
The Blue Devils began the ensuing drive on their own 46 yard line trailing by five. On the fourth play of the drive Wade Jarrell gave Gallia Academy it’s first lead with a four yard run. Saunders added the extra point to cap off the 1:45 drive, which gave the Blue Devils a 16-14 lead.
The Rockets were forced into a three and out on their next drive and the GAHS offense regained control at it’s own 45 yard line. On the first play of the drive Wade Jarrell kept the ball on the QB option and ran through the AMHS defense for the touchdown. Saunders added the point after, giving Gallia Academy the 23-14 lead with 8:06 remaining in the half.
McNicholas was able to score once more before the break, on a 15 yard pass from Ernst to Jacob Lind. DiSalvio added the extra point and the Rockets trailed 23-21 at halftime.
AMHS received the ball after halftime and it took less that two minutes for the Rockets to regain the lead. Lind caught his second touchdown of the game, this time it was a 31 yard reception from Ernst. DiSalvio added the extra point following the five play 51 yard drive.
Trailing 28-23 Gallia Academy began to drive after recovering a McNicholas fumble on the GAHS 29 yard line. On the seventh play of the drive Ty Warnimont took the hand off and ran 14 yards through the Rocket defense for six points. Saunders capped off the 3:08 drive with the extra point and Gallia Academy led 30-28.
After Justin Bailey intercepted Ernst’s pass with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Wade Jarrell took the first play of the drive 39 yards for the score. Saunders added the extra point and GAHS led 37-28 with one quarter remaining.
McNicholas took possession of the ball with 8:22 remaining in the game and on the 11th play of the drive Ernst found the paydirt. DiSalivo added the point after and brought the Rockets to within two points.
AMHS regained possession with 3:15 remaining in the game on its own 22 yard line. Four first downs had the Rockets in the redzone with just over a minute remaining when the Blue Devil defense stripped and recovered the football.
Three plays to kill the clock and the Gallia Academy took the 37-35 triumph on home field.
“This fan base was unbelievable tonight,” Eddy said. “They were rocking all night long and to be able to win in front of them means every thing to me, this coaching staff and these kids. We wanted to bring playoff football back to this city and to be able to win in front of them is one of the most special things we’ve done all year long.”
Wade Jarrell led Gallia Academy’s offense with 293 yards rushing on 23 carries to go along with 82 yards on 7-of-14 passing. Wade Jarrell ran for three touchdowns and threw for one while throwing two interceptions.
Warnimont had 63 yards rushing on eight attempts with a touchdown, while Cody Russell had five carries for 19 yards. Nick Clagg finished with three receptions for 52 yards, Eastman had two catches for 23 yards and a score, Logan Allison finished with one catch for seven yards, and Bailey had one grab for zero yards.
The Blue Devils finished with 457 total yards (375 rushing and 82 passing) to go along with 10 first downs on the night. GAHS was penalized eight times for 50 yards.
Ernst led McNicholas with 407 yards passing on 30-43 attempts with an interception and three passing scores. Ernst also accounted for 21 rushing yards and two ground touchdowns.
Sean Byrne had nine carries for 26 and three receptions for 33 yards. Luke Sulken had 10 receptions for 108, Thomas Vogele had five receptions for 96 yards, Brad Rice had six receptions for 86 yards, Lind had for receptions for 67 yards and three TD’s, and Michael Mink finished with two catches for 17 yards.
This is Gallia Academy’s first playoff win since 2006 when they defeated Fairfield Union 14-9 at FUHS. The last time the Blue Devils won a home playoff game was 2002 when they defeated Circleville. GAHS has now won eight straight games.
“We played a great opponent but we were greater tonight and that’s what it came down to,” said Eddy. “Our kids made some tremendous plays in great situations and it’s fantastic. I feel as good as I’ve ever felt.”
The Blue Devils will face top seeded Dayton Thurgood Marshall in the second round of the Division III region 12 playoffs Saturday at Western Brown High School in Mount Orab at 7 p.m.