MASON, W.Va. — This time, history was on the Rebels’ side.
Senior Johnny Sheets set a school record for rushing yards in a season while leading the South Gallia football team to its first-ever win at Bachtel Stadium on Friday night following a 28-20 decision over host Wahama in a Week 8 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup in Mason County.
The visiting Rebels (3-5, 2-4 TVC Hocking) — who dropped their first 14 decisions to WHS before last year — now have a two-game winning streak over the White Falcons, thanks in large part to a stingy defense and a dominant performance by the program’s new single-season rushing leader.
Sheets — a 6-foot-2, 245-pound running back — needed 161 yards on the ground to eclipse the previous SGHS mark of 1,452 yards set by Jacob White in the fall of 2013.
Sheets — who finished the night with 264 rushing yards on 33 attempts — set the record on his 22nd carry after rumbling 34 yards for his second touchdown of the night, which gave the Red and Gold a 20-12 edge one play into the fourth quarter.
Both teams traded punts on their ensuing possessions, then Wahama (2-6, 1-6) rallied to knot things up following a two-play, 85-yard scoring drive that ended with a Brady Bumgarner 79-yard touchdown catch from Bryton Grate with 8:01 remaining.
Colton Arrington tacked on a successful two-point conversion run, tying the contest at 20-all.
SGHS countered on its ensuing possession with a six-play, 68-yard drive that resulted in points as Jeffery Sheets plunged in from four yards out, making it a 26-20 contest with 4:55 remaining. Johnny Sheets converted the successful two-point run, allowing the Rebels to secure a 28-20 advantage.
The White Falcons were forced to punt on their ensuing possession, then forced a turnover on downs on South Gallia’s next drive — giving the hosts the ball at their own 18-yard line with 50 seconds left in regulation.
After a nine-yard gain on first down and an incomplete pass on second down, the Red and White ran into a disastrous situation as a bad snap sailed over Grate’s head and deep into the backfield area.
Grate recovered the fumble, but Isaac Luther recorded his second sack of the night — which resulted in a 20-yard loss with less than 20 seconds left in the game.
Grate completed a 19-yard pass to Johnnie Board on a fourth-and-21 play, with Board being brought down as time expired.
The Rebels outgained WHS by a sizable 445-200 overall margin in total yards of offense, with all of the guests’ output coming from the ground game on 57 attempts. The White Falcons, conversely, mustered only 80 rushing yards on 31 carries.
Following the game, seventh-year SGHS coach Jason Peck was really pleased with the effort from his guys in the trenches. He was also quick to point out that his senior tailback is pretty good too.
“Offensively, I cannot say enough about our guys up front. They really did a good job at the point of attack tonight,” Peck said. “Then there was Johnny Sheets and his effort tonight, and he was simply out of this world again. It seems that every time we need something big to happen, Johnny is the one that ends up doing it.”
Peck wasn’t the only head coach impressed with the efforts of Johnny Sheets on this night.
Fourth-year WHS coach Dave Barr was proud of his troops and their collective efforts, but did mention that the SGHS senior was the difference in the outcome.
“In my opinion, Johnny Sheets is the best running back in our conference this year. We knew coming in that it was going to take a heck of an effort for us to control him, and that isn’t an easy task,” Barr said. “I give our kids a lot of credit because they fought as hard as they could throughout the entire football game. In a game like this, one or two plays can make all the difference — and those were the plays we just couldn’t seem to find tonight.”
After a scoreless first quarter, South Gallia capped an eight-play, 99-yard scoring drive with a 61-yard touchdown run by David Kuhn at the 6:52 mark of the second canto. A.J. Woodall added a successful PAT kick to give the guests a 7-0 advantage.
The White Falcons countered with a 12-play, 65-yard drive that was capped off by a 15-yard touchdown catch by Colton Arrington from Bryton Grate, allowing the hosts to close to within 7-6 with 1:09 remaining in the half.
On South Gallia’s ensuing possession, the Rebels tried their only pass attempt of the night from its own 38-yard line — and failed miserably.
Chase Kemper’s pass was picked off by Wahama’s Brady Bumgarner, who then returned it 61 yards to the house while giving the hosts a 12-7 advantage with 49.3 seconds left until halftime.
After being held to 55 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Johnny Sheets started to wear down the White Falcon defense — starting with the opening drive of the second half.
The Rebels gave the ball to their senior five times during a nine-play, 77-yard drive that resulted in a Sheets one-yard touchdown run at the 7:23 mark, making it a 13-12 contest in favor the guests.
SGHS forced a three-and-out on Wahama’s ensuing possession, then the Red and Gold strung together a 10-play, 89-yard scoring drive that was capped by the historic 34-yard TD run by Sheets. Woodall added a successful extra-point kick with 11:53 remaining in regulation, giving the Rebels a 20-12 cushion.
South Gallia finished the night with a 21-9 advantage in first downs and was also penalized three times for 25 yards. WHS, conversely, forced the only takeaway of the night was flagged twice for 15 yards.
Given the fact that Wahama has consistently dominated South Gallia over the years on the gridiron, Peck was equally proud of his kids on the defensive side of the ball. After all, the Rebels limited WHS to 2.6 yards per carry on the ground and allowed only one first down in the entire second half.
“The thing about our defense is that 10 of the 11 starters are underclassmen, most of whom are getting their first taste of varsity football this year,” Peck said. “I’m definitely very proud of their efforts tonight against an opponent that we don’t normally have a great deal of success against historically.
“We’ve taken a few whippings from Wahama in the past and we do remember some of the not so good times over here, so it is nice for everyone to finally have a little success over here against a pretty respectable football program. This is something we can all be proud of moving forward.”
Kuhn followed Johnny Sheets — who had eight carries for double-digit yardage — with 74 yards on six attempts. Jeffery Sheets also added 65 yards on 11 totes for the victors.
Luther also led the Rebel defense with two sacks that resulted in a loss of 33 yards.
Wyatt Edwards led the Wahama rushing attack with 60 yards for 14 carries, followed by Arrington with 36 yards on seven attempts. Bumgarner also had three rushes for 15 yards in the setback.
Grate finished the night 8-of-13 passing for 120 yards, throwing two touchdowns in the process. Wahama had five different receivers catch a pass in the setback, with Arrington leading the wideouts with three grabs for 32 yards.
Friday night’s gridiron contest was also the Homecoming game for Wahama.
The White Falcons have now lost three straight decisions and are 0-4 at Bachtel Stadium this fall. South Gallia, on the other hand, snapped a three-game losing skid and improved to 3-2 in road games.
Both teams return to TVC Hocking action Friday as Wahama travels to Miller and South Gallia travels to Southern. Both games will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.