CENTENARY, Ohio — For the longest time on Thursday night, the Gallia Academy High School soccer squad had an airtight grip on the Ohio Valley Conference championship trophy.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, that trophy has to feel like it’s in a million pieces this morning.
In a stunning setback, Gallia Academy’s 3-1 halftime lead over South Point evaporated, as the visiting Pointers posted three goals in the final 26 minutes and 14 seconds — and left Lester Field having shell-shocked the Blue Devils 4-3 in an all-important OVC match.
The Blue Devils rallied from a 1-0 deficit with a three-goal flurry in only 10 minutes, staking a 3-1 lead for the final 12 minutes of the opening half.
But the Pointers, particularly senior striker Jake Helton, pushed on the accelerator in the second half — as Helton had all four of South Point’s goals, including the stunning go-ahead marker with only three minutes and 32 seconds to play.
Although, the drama definitely didn’t end there.
In fact, it lasted until the final buzzer sounded.
The Blue Devils, in desperation mode to eke out at least a 4-4 tie, attempted two final shots within the final seconds at South Point goalkeeper Jordan Perkey.
In a scramble on the right side of the box, a great Gallia Academy shot went right through Perkey’s legs, but missed just left by a razor-thin margin — but right at the feet of sophomore Justin Day.
Day, however, missed off the left post from point-blank range, giving Gallia Academy a heartbreaking loss — with several of the Blue Devils simply laying on the pitch in anguish.
Had Gallia Academy held on, the Blue Devils — in the first season of soccer in the OVC — would have captured the outright championship.
Even a tie, in fact, would have clinched no worse than a share of the title.
But now it gets very interesting, as the Blue Devils fell to 9-5-0, including 6-1-0 in the OVC.
South Point, meanwhile, improved its record to 8-5-1 — and 5-1-0 in the conference.
Should the Blue Devils win at Chesapeake next Thursday night, they will at least share the OVC championship.
Gallia Academy can also still win the title outright — should it defeat or tie Chesapeake, and have the Pointers lose at least one of their final two.
The Pointers’ only league loss came against the Blue Devils, when GAHS rallied from a 2-0 halftime deficit to claim a 5-4 win at South Point.
On Thursday, the Pointers turned the two-goal deficit trick.
The Blue and White was controlling its own destiny until the 26:14 mark of the second half, having scored three times in 10 minutes in the opening stanza.
After Helton had a penalty-kick goal for South Point with 25:20 left, Isaiah Lester landed the 1-1 equalizer — off an assist by Pedro Carrascal with 21:55 remaining.
For Lester, that was his 25th goal of his stellar senior season.
Then, on superb curling shots that found their direct targets in the upper-right and left 90s respectively, Miguel Velasco fired in a free kick at the 16:34 mark — followed by a perfect one-time blast by Jacob Ratliff off an assist from Lester.
That was with 11:56 showing, as Gallia Academy outshot the Pointers 13-5 in the first half.
But Helton hit for three more goals in the second half, including off an assist by Jimmy Hart to trim the deficit to 3-2.
He tied the match at 3-3 with less than nine minutes to play, then gave the Pointers their 4-3 lead with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Helton’s final of his four goals was indeed the most dramatic, as he attempted another penalty kick — that was beautifully deflected away with two hands by Gallia Academy goalkeeper Caden Wilt.
But with Wilt drawn up in the box to make the standing PK save, the ball ricocheted almost directly back to Helton, who alertly rocketed the orb beyond Wilt to stunningly put South Point ahead.
Wilt wound up with five saves, and Gallia Academy actually doubled up the Pointers in shots 24-12.
The Blue Devils also held an 8-5 advantage in corner kicks, and most of the offensive possession was played in South Point’s defensive half.
But Gallia Academy, in outscoring its OVC opposition 28-12 thus far, gave up four goals apiece in each of the two Pointer matchups.
The Blue Devils returned home, and returned to non-league action, on Saturday afternoon against Jackson.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106