MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Now that’s one for the history books.
South Gallia snapped a 10-game losing streak and picked up its first-ever triumph at the new SGHS athletic complex Friday night following a 20-14 overtime victory over visiting Waterford in a Week 9 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup in Gallia County.
The Rebels (1-8, 1-7 TVC Hocking) celebrated Senior Night in dramatic fashion, as the hosts rallied back from a 14-8 fourth quarter deficit to earn their first win since a Week 9 27-7 decision at Waterford last fall. It is also the first time that SGHS has ever beaten Waterford at home.
South Gallia rallied to tie the game at 14 with 9:47 left in regulation, then made a couple of big defensive plays down the stretch to force overtime. The hosts won the coin toss and elected to play defense, and that decision paid off big just two plays into the extra session — as the Rebels intercepted a forced pass to take over possession.
After a pair of short running gains for a third-and-six at the 16, quarterback Landon Hutchinson lofted a pass toward Ethan Spurlock just past the endzone line on the right side. After a brief bobble near a WHS defender, Spurlock wrapped both hands around the ball as he fell to the ground.
That catch was not only the third touchdown for Spurlock on the night, but it also gave the Rebels their first win of the 2012 campaign … and their first-ever triumph at the new facility.
Afterwards, SGHS Jason Peck was emotionally drained after such a great team effort. And after an 0-8 start to this season, the third-year frontman was pleased to see the Rebels’ hard work finally pay off.
“These young men come to work every day and they are a great group of kids. They’ve had adversity to deal with all year long, rather it be our youth or our injuries, and they’ve continued to respond,” Peck said. “To finally get a win at home, it’s huge. It finally feels like this place is our home.
“We could have folded our tent and packed it in, but we haven’t had one kid quit this fall. Obviously, I’m very proud of our kids for continuing to fight and put in the effort. I’m happy that these guys get to taste victory once at home this year, especially the seniors in their final game here.”
The Rebels have only four seniors — Brandon Campbell, Jesse Stewart, Christian Wilkes and Jacob Fields — on their 28-man roster for 2012, a year after losing 12 players to graduation from a playoff team.
But early on, South Gallia played like team with poise and experience.
The Rebels outgained the Wildcats (2-7, 1-6) by a 113-82 margin in first half yards, and the hosts also struck first blood on both sides of the ball.
Waterford lost a fumble on its opening play from scrimmage, then SGHS marched 51 yards in nine plays to take an early 6-0 advantage after Spurlock capped the drive on a one-yard touchdown run with 7:13 left in the first quarter. A successful Jacob White run on a two-point conversion gave the hosts an 8-0 lead.
The score stayed that way until just before halftime, as the Wildcats marched 49 yards in seven plays to get their first score of the night. Hunter Munjas rumbled in from seven yards out with 4:24 left in the half to pull the guests to within 8-6, then Wyatt Porter hauled in a successful two-point conversion pass from Devon Patterson for eight-all contest at the break.
Both teams had two turnovers in the opening half, but only South Gallia managed to turn any of those miscues into points. The Rebels had 112 rushing yards, one passing yard and six first downs at the intermission, while the guests had 44 rushing yards, 25 passing yards and five first downs before the break.
Neither team scored in the third period, but South Gallia had both of its drives in that quarter end in turnovers after losing a pair of fumbles — the second of which ultimately proved costly.
Waterford took over possession at its own 32 with 3:32 left in the third, then the guests marched 68 yards in nine plays to take their first lead of the night after Munjas reached paydirt on a nine-yard scamper with 11:17 left in regulation for a 14-8 edge.
SGHS, however, responded with a four-play, 52-yard scoring drive to tie the contest with 9:47 remaining in the final canto. Spurlock broke a pair of sideline tackles and rumbled 40 yards to endzone, making it a 14-all contest.
WHS put together an 11-play drive that started at its own 37 and ended up at the Rebel seven. With first-and-goal at the seven, Austin Lang took a handoff and made his way down to the two before a South Gallia defender pried the ball loose. Both teams tried effortlessly to retain possession of the fumble, and the ball kept getting pushed forward as each squad tried to collect it.
A Waterford player ultimately fell on the ball, but he never established himself in-bounds as the ball trickled out the back of the endzone — resulting in a touchback and possession for the Rebels with 3:45 left in the fourth.
South Gallia was forced to punt, and Waterford again managed to get inside the hosts’ 10-yard line. Facing a second-and-seven from the SGHS eight, WHS lost yardage on consecutive plays to end up with a fourth-and-13 at the 14. Waterford’s last chance at a regulation win was also thwarted on a quarterback sack, which brought the game clock to triple-zeros.
The Wildcats started overtime with a one-yard loss on a run, then Jacob Saunders picked off an errant pass by Patterson and fell immediately to the ground — giving the hosts their chance from the 20-yard line.
Two Spurlock runs moved the ball down to the 16, then Spurlock hauled in Hutchinson’s game-winning pass for the 20-14 triumph.
Waterford outgained the hosts 268-244 in total yards and posted a 15-13 edge in first downs, and both teams committed four turnovers in the contest. SGHS was penalized five times for 45 yards, while the Wildcats had four flags for 20 yards. South Gallia had the only two punts in the contest for an average of 30 yards.
The Rebels amassed 216 rushing yards on 42 attempts and also had 28 passing yards without throwing an interception. The hosts also lost four of five fumbles in the contest.
Spurlock led the hosts with 150 yards on 26 carries, followed by Jacob White with 48 yards on eight totes. Hutchinson had 15 yards on six carries and Dakota Wroten gained three yards on two tries.
Hutchinson finished the night 4-of-6 passing for 28 yards. Spurlock had two catches for 20 yards, Jared Northup had one reception for seven yards and Tyler Carpenter had one grab for one yard.
WHS had 43 rushes for 173 yards and added another 95 yards through the air. The guests also threw two interceptions and lost two of four fumbles in the loss.
Munjas led the Wildcats with 132 rushing yards on 22 carries, followed by Jake Stewart with 10 rushes for 39 yards. Austin Lang had three tries for 16 yards and Patterson had eight carries for negative-14 yards.
Patterson was 6-of-16 passing for 95 yards with two interceptions. Austin Cunningham had three catches for 79 yards, Munjas added one catch for nine yards, Stewart had one grab for four yards and Wyatt Porter had one reception for three yards.
The Rebels complete their 2012 campaign next Friday when they travel to Manchester for a Week 10 non-conference matchup against the Greyhounds at 7:30 p.m.