Category: Gallia Academy

Blue Devils, Tigers meet in Region 15 quarters

Blue Devils, Tigers meet in Region 15 quarters

By Paul Boggs

WAVERLY – It’s a matchup of conference runner-ups, but it’s also a playoff affair of two of Southeastern Ohio’s consistently top programs.

That’s because the 9-1 Gallia Academy Blue Devils travel to face the 8-2 Waverly Tigers, as both squads are in need of a playoff pick-me-up – after a few years of not having much serious success to speak of.

Kickoff for the Division IV Region 15 quarterfinal is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m., inside Waverly’s nicely-renovated Raidiger Field.

Gallia Academy is making its 12th all-time Ohio High School Athletic Association state playoff appearance, while Waverly is making its eighth.

Both clubs qualified last year as the Tigers are actually competing in their school-record fourth consecutive postseason, but first for Region 15 after three straight seasons of one-and-out in the Cincinnati-centric Region 16.

For the eight-man Waverly senior class, and even its underclassmen, it’s time to take the next step as a program – and win a playoff game.

The third-seeded Tigers are 3-7 all-time in the playoffs – but haven’t won since back-to-back regional quarterfinal victories in 2006 and 2007, when Trevor Walls was the talented and highly-touted Waverly quarterback.

“These guys (seniors) have been to one every year, which is cool, but we haven’t tasted that victory yet,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree. “Going three times now four times in a row (to the playoffs) is the first time that’s been done here, so we have another opportunity to win one. We’re definitely in a better region (Region 15) for us, given our school-size perspective and our makeup, it just fits us a little bit better. In 2016, we had a home playoff game and it was super exciting with a great atmosphere, and it should be that way again on Saturday night. We just have to get over the hump, and this would be a great time to do that.”

The Blue Devils’ playoff mark is 6-11, but last season was the first since 2012 that Gallia Academy was even in the postseason – after a few years of falling on uncharacteristic hard times.

Gallia Academy is coming off a second straight 9-1 campaign under third-year head coach Alex Penrod – losing only against Ohio Valley Conference champion Ironton.

“It is a great feeling for our seniors, our team, our program and our community. To know where this program and these seniors were just a short time ago, but through their determination to want to be successful, they have bought into what the coaches lay out to them daily, week in and week out, and in the offseason,” said Penrod. “It is great for them to reap the benefits of hard work and commitment.”

Gallia Academy was in the running for a Region 15 home tilt, but the blowout loss against Ironton dropped the sixth-seeded Blue Devils out of the top four for good.

Penrod said the past two weeks have been about recovering physically, but more importantly emotionally.

“It was one of those ‘shell-shock’ moments. Our team truly believed they were going to beat Ironton. Unfortunately, things that could go wrong did go wrong, and we were not able to overcome the mental aspect of the adversity of situations,” said the coach. “But through every defeat, you can find strength if you are willing to believe positive thoughts and willing to get back to work. We have had a few minor bumps and bruises the last couple of weeks, but we hope to be back at full strength as we enter the playoffs.”

If Gallia Academy is at full strength for Saturday night, then that will include junior James Armstrong returning to the lineup after missing most of the seventh game of the season – and all three of the Blue’s final regular-season bouts, including Ironton.

#
3
Name
James Armstrong
Position
2021
Height
6-00
Weight
190
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
The six-foot, 190-pound Armstrong had rushed for 1,034 yards on 134 carries prior to his injury, and is the most significant piece of the Blue Devils’ offensive attack.

It was believed by multiple sources that he would miss those last three regular-season games, but Crabtree is approaching as if Armstrong will return this week.
“Looking at them is almost like looking in the mirror in how we run our offense. They have similar formation sets, they are very athletic, they are very big up front. I know he has missed the last three games, but I am going to assume that the Armstrong kid is going to play on Saturday. But (running back Michael) Beasy has carried the load and has done a good job of running the football for them,” said Crabtree. “They are definitely well-coached, they want to run the football, they can throw the football when they need to, and their formations make it difficult for you to adjust to.”

With Armstrong’s, Beasy’s and Donevyn Woodson’s speed, Crabtree said a key is “being able to get off blocks and being able to tackle”.

“We’re going to have to stop the run. We want to make them throw the ball to beat us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Waverly has its own injury concerns – with junior quarterback Haydn’ Shanks continually competing on a torn ACL he suffered in the preseason.

#
13
Name
Haydn Shanks
Position
2021
Height
6-03
Weight
190
Current Team
Waverly
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Shanks still has thrown for 1,652 yards and 16 touchdowns on 115-of-185 passing, with Will Futhey leading the Tigers’ receiving corps – with 43 receptions for 872 yards and 11 TD.

But the Waverly offense, of course, centers around the senior standout running back Payton Shoemaker – who went over the 2,000-yard single-season rushing mark in the Tigers’ 27-14 triumph at Oak Hill.

The fast-paced Tigers try – and often succeed – at operating a hurry-it-up no-huddle offense, in which Shoemaker is the primary focus.

#
1
Name
Payton Shoemaker
Position
2020
Height
5-09
Weight
155
Current Team
Waverly
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Shoemaker has 258 of the Tigers’ 328 carries this season, going off for an amazing average of 204 yards per game and eight yards per each individual carry.

He has amassed 28 touchdowns and 2,039 yards.

“We definitely have some athletes and we can stretch the field vertically or horizontally,” said Crabtree. “We can take the top off of it down deep, and obviously with Payton (Shoemaker), if you give him a little bit of crease, he can make things happen.”

Penrod explained that the Tigers’ tempo actually allows the Blue Devil defense to adjust easier.

“For a lot of teams, the up-tempo can give you fits because it is not something you see every game. For us, it gives us more of an advantage because our offense wants to play fast and up-tempo, so we are more geared to adjusting to their style of play,” he said. “We are not as fast as they are, and that is still hard to simulate. With the amount of weapons they have inside the box, they have the same ability outside of the box to beat you too. It all comes down to individually doing ‘your job’. For Waverly, the less time they have the football, that is what usually favors them. They are more worried about the number of snaps they can get more than time of possession. We know they want to push the tempo, and we have to be ready to adjust to the speed of the game and the formations they are going to give us.”

Hence, this could quickly turn into an offensive shootout, which will definitely keep the fans interested – on an expected cold night in Waverly.

Given Gallipolis is an estimated hour travel distance to Waverly along U.S. Route 35 to State Route 32, the Blue Devils do bring a following – and an even overflow crowd is likely on Saturday night.

It is the only Region 15 bout featuring a pair of Southeast District squads, and should attract all of Pike and Gallia counties.

“We have both been in big games with large crowds. Our Ironton game had a lot of buildup, but I think playing on a Saturday is more of a sticking point because of the ‘longer’ week, but also getting you out of the routine of the normal week during the year of playing on Fridays. It will be a great environment for both teams and schools, but also for Southeast Ohio,” said Penrod. “We hope both areas can pack the stadium, and give what both of our teams deserve, which is a positive support system from all involved.”

Of course, a playoff pick-me-up and advancement to the regional semifinals is the ultimate goal.

“With two teams being close enough for familiarity, it should be a packed house and great atmosphere,” said Crabtree. “We are excited for our kids, our community and our school system, and we hopefully we can get this one.”

Join the discussion here

RankPlayerPositionHeightWeightPYDSTDRUYDSTDREYDSTD
1James Armstrong20216-0019000111611740
2Michael Beasy20216-0016500771121011
3Briar Williams20225-101500030523042
4Donevyn Woodson20225-111450012601223
5Brody Fellure20235-0914528198100
RankPlayerPositionHeightPYDSTDRUYDSTDREYDSTD
1Payton Shoemaker20205-0900234432740
2Hunter Ward20205-09002222-30
3Dawson Shoemaker2022-0055050
4Jackson Poe20215-110024700
5Trey Brushart2023-007000

Ironton, Blue Devils set for epic showdown

Ironton, Blue Devils set for epic showdown

Gallia Academy vs Ironton

OVC
SEO

By PAUL BOGGS

Photo’s by Kent Sanborn

 

Having a difficult, even agonizing, decision on which team – either Ironton or Gallia Academy – to choose for those weekly picks you make?

 

Well, take a number – because this one in Vegas would probably be a pick ’em.

 

In a game many anticipated – and even hoped – would be billed as arguably the biggest in all of Southeastern Ohio, for all of the 2019 season, is finally upon us.

 

It’s an Ohio Valley Conference super showdown, and a playoff points bonanza to boot, as the one-loss Ironton Fighting Tigers travel to face the undefeated Gallia Academy Blue Devils – with the winner clinching at least a share of the OVC championship and in all likelihood a state playoff berth.

 

Ironton enters at 7-1 while the host Blue Devils, the defending OVC champions, are a perfect 8-0.

In fact, this is the first time in which Gallia Academy has been 8-0 since 1986.

Both clubs also “control their own destiny” towards punching a playoff ticket – as both are currently rated third in their respective playoff regions (Ironton in Region 19 of Division V and Gallia Academy in Region 15 of Division IV), per the official Ohio High School Athletic Association weekly computer ratings.

 

In the Associated Press poll, the Fighting Tigers are sixth in Division V, while the Blue Devils are fifth in Division IV – their highest ranking in school history.

 

And both squads are experienced along their lines and at the skilled positions, enjoying strong seasons on both the defensive and offensive sides of the football.

 

The placekickers are pretty darn good, too.

 

Oh, and both are 6-0 in the OVC – as only Portsmouth (7-1, 5-1 in OVC), with a win over South Point this week, plays a role in deciding the conference championship aside from Ironton and Gallia Academy.

 

For sure, though, something has to give on Friday night – when Ironton invades Memorial Field in Gallipolis for kickoff at 7 p.m.

 

It will be a standing-room-only atmosphere along Fourth Avenue in the French City, and an electric one along the banks of the Chickamauga Creek where historic Memorial Field sits.

 

This is also an encounter in which several of these juniors and seniors have endured already, as Gallia Academy has won the past two meetings – including rallying from a 26-9 third-quarter deficit last season to ultimately prevail 36-33 to win its first-ever OVC championship in only its third season in the league.

In interviews this week, both coaches know of their players’ big-game experiences – and no doubt this is one of those affairs.

 

“We return a lot of guys, they return a lot of guys. This sets up so both teams know each other so well, and neither team is going to be short of confidence. Our players, their players, they know all about playing on a big stage like this,” said Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton. “It’s at their place this season, but it still comes down to blocking, tackling and taking care of the football. We do those three things well and better than Gallia Academy does, I like our chances. All of these big games have the same formula. Big-time players make the biggest plays in the biggest games. Our goals of a league championship are right there in front of us. We just have to continue to work hard, practice hard, go out and execute and we will reach our goal of winning the OVC.”

 

“Thankfully, we had a lot of young men involved in this game last year, but we also had a lot of kids in big roles this year that watched it from the sideline. We feel confident in their roles, and the adjustment and development they have shown this year. You can never simulate a ‘game’ like Friday night with the buildup from the outside. But when 7 p.m. comes and that first kickoff has happened, all of that noise is gone, all of the ‘chalkboard’ material is no more – all we have is an orange helmet versus a blue helmet,” said Gallia Academy coach Alex Penrod. “Our goal is to win the immediate play. And whether we win or lose that play, the mindset is always the most important play is the next play – no matter the week or the opponent or the share of OVC titles. We have to control our team, do our job.”

 

The Blue Devils have definitely done their jobs through eight games, scoring at least 14 points in each and at least 24 in seven – while pitching three shutouts.

Gallia Academy, after its first playoff appearance since 2012 last season, has overcome inexperience in spots.

 

“In any season, as the season extends, what you want to see from your team is to continually develop in a positive way. Wins and losses are a part of football, but the true statement is us as coaches seeing the development,” said Penrod. “We have been blessed to be 8-0 at this point in the season, and atop of the conference tied with Ironton. It has been a process, taking a lot of inexperienced pieces with our experience and showing weekly maturation.”

 

This week, though, shall show how much maturity the Blue Devils have reached, as Ironton – on paper – is the best opponent they have faced thus far.

 

Only Ashland (Ky), and a 16-10 overtime defeat, has prevented the Fighting Tigers from being an equal 8-0.

 

Head Coach Trevon Pendleton

Current Team
Ironton
Past Teams
Portsmouth West
“Our kids have done a great job of handling each week and handling the adversity we faced from the Ashland game,” said Pendleton. “We’ve turned our attention to winning the OVC, which is our first goal as a team. We’ve went out and taken care of business each week, which sets us up for a share of the championship with a win this week.”

 

Ironton’s offense features a balance of run and pass, as six-foot three-inch junior running back Reid Carrico – an Ohio State verbal commit – has rushed for 828 yards and 16 touchdowns on 110 carries, good for seven-and-a-half yards per carry.

 

#
28
Name
Reid Carrico
Position
2021
Height
6-03
Weight
225
Current Team
Ironton
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
Carrico also leads the team in receptions – 14 for 260 yards and two TD.

 

#
7
Name
Gage Salyers
Position
2020
Height
6-01
Weight
205
Current Team
Ironton
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
Gage Salyers, the senior quarterback, has completed 51-of-97 passes for 850 yards –throwing for five touchdowns with four interceptions.

 

He has also rushed 53 times for 406 yards and six scores, and a 7.7 yards per carry average.

 

#
44
Name
Seth Fosson
Position
2020
Height
6-01
Weight
235
Current Team
Ironton
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
Seth Fosson, the senior fullback, has 259 yards on 39 attempts for 6.6 yards per tote.

But perhaps more impressive is the Fighting Tigers’ first-team defense, which has not allowed more than one touchdown in regulation time.

 

The Tomcats tallied a touchdown in overtime against Ironton.

 

Head Coach Alexander K Penrod

Current Team
Gallia Academy
Past Teams
Alexander
“They are without a doubt a talented team,” said Penrod of the Fighting Tigers. “You could list about 12 names and numbers, but they play with so much passion and relentless effort. That is what makes them a fun watch from a ‘fan’ perspective. Unfortunately, I have the duty of being an opposing coach to them this week. So we’re trying to find what minimal weaknesses they do have, and try to take advantage of those. Our gameplan this week, like others, is to worry less about the opposing team, and continually see the growth of our players and our team – get them ready to play the football game of their life and make a name for some of our players who are heck of football players, too.”

 

One of those players is Gallia Academy junior James Armstrong,

 

#
3
Name
James Armstrong
Position
2021
Height
6-00
Weight
190
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
Armstrong is six-foot tall and weighs 190 pounds, and has already made an official visit to Ohio State.

 

He has rushed for 1,034 yards on 142 carries – with an impressive average of 7.28 yards per touch.

 

But Armstrong suffered an injury early against Coal Grove two weeks ago, and did not play at all last week in the Blue Devils’ 48-7 victory at Rock Hill.

 

That game, in fact, was Gallia Academy’s first all season on an artificial FieldTurf surface, while Ashland has been Ironton’s only game on natural grass.

 

Rumors have swirled if Armstrong will be back for the Blue Devils this week, but Pendleton plans as if he will be – but emphasized Ironton’s gameplan doesn’t focus strictly on one player.

 

“We don’t focus on just one kid. I’ve heard (Armstrong) he may play, I’ve heard he may not play. I really don’t know. What I do know is Gallia Academy is going to have 11 players on both sides of the ball at all times. That is who we are gameplanning for. We focus on all 11,” he said. “They have a ton of good athletes that they like to get the ball to out in space. They like to run the football, but they have good, fast receivers and their quarterback has become a very good player for them. They have good size up front.”

 

#
20
Name
Michael Beasy
Position
2021
Height
6-00
Weight
165
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
Michael Beasy – a six-foot, 165-pound junior running back – complements Armstrong in the form of 615 yards on 80 carries while Noah Vanco, the junior quarterback, has completed 61-of-97 passes for 842 yards with eight touchdowns.

 

Cade Roberts returns as the Blue Devils’ H-back, and actually leads the Blue with 11 receptions for 199 yards.

 

If Armstrong doesn’t play, look for Gallia Academy to involve even more the likes of sophomores Donevyn Woodson and Briar Williams and seniors Ryan Donovsky and Ben Cox.

#
24
Name
Donevyn Woodson
Position
2022
Height
5-11
Weight
145
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019

The experienced Blue Devil offensive line is anchored by three-year starting right tackle Riley Starnes – a 6-5, 295-pound junior who has taken an official visit to the University of Kentucky.

#
50
Name
Riley Starnes
Position
2021
Height
6-05
Weight
295
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019

And, if the weather turns rainy, and Memorial Field gets muddy, then running the football – while making minimal mistakes – becomes even more important.

 

The Fighting Tigers have struggled at times with turnovers, but more glaring is the number of penalties.

 

“We can’t be making unforced errors in a game like this. It’s something we definitely need to clean up, and if we’re going to win this game, then we have to take care of the ball and really reduce the penalties,” said Pendleton. “If the weather gets bad, running the football on grass will be like the old backyard mud bowls and good old-fashioned smash-mouth football. Still, that makes protecting the football and eliminating mistakes that much more significant.”

 

Penrod preached the importance of turnovers too.

 

“Turnovers are usually a difference-maker in any game. They have had some miscues on both sides of the ball, but the same goes with our team too. It is continually preached and coached – as I am sure with them. You can never go into a game expecting three turnovers from an opposing team,” he said. “But we have to have the mentality to put them in situations where we can force the issue and hope the ball bounces our way. ‘Championship’ games will be won or lost on turnover ratio and field position.”

Penrod said he hopes for good weather, and actually explained “we were excited to finally be on turf last week at Rock Hill.”

 

“Whatever the surface, or elements of the game are, we know both teams will be ready to play football and adjust accordingly. What I do want to see is a dry field and clear evening for our fans of both teams to show up and watch a fantastic football game from two very good high school teams,” he said.

 

Two very good teams indeed.

 

That said, you still having difficulty deciding upon who to pick this week?

OVC Standings

PosTeamWLPFPANet Pts
17033234298
261277160117
35220418222
4431711674
534134233-99
625188268-80
716140233-93
807112281-169

Gallia Academy Rushing

RankPlayerPositionATTRUYDSTD
1James Armstrong2021152111611
2Michael Beasy202112277112
3Briar Williams2022243052
4Donevyn Woodson2022111260
5Brody Fellure20239981

Ironton Rushing

RankPlayerPositionATTRUYDSTD
1Reid Carrico2021208158123
2Gage Salyers202013287213
3Seth Fosson2020573916
4Cameron Deere2021433012
5Trevor Carter2023232324

Trojans, Blue Devils duel in battle of unbeatens, Week 5 Preview Worthington Christian at Trimble, Valley at Northwest, Amanda-Clearcreek at Waverly

Trojans, Blue Devils duel in battle of unbeatens

Gallia Academy vs Portsmouth

By PAUL BOGGS & Kent Sanborn

 

 

Two tradition-rich and proud programs, which just happen to be 4-0 for the first time in ages, do battle on Friday night.

 

In a key Ohio Valley Conference clash, the Portsmouth Trojans travel the long trek to Gallia County to take on the Gallia Academy Blue Devils – the defending OVC champion.

 

Both teams are 4-0, with the Trojans 4-for-4 for the first time since 2002, while the Blue Devils hold that same mark – for the first time since 1994.

 

But, for the here and now, the winner will move to 2-0 in the OVC, as both captured their conference openers last week while looking to complete the first half of this season still undefeated.

 

Kickoff inside historic Memorial Field in Gallipolis is set for 7 p.m.

Dating back a decade ago in the now defunct Southeastern Ohio Athletic League, the Trojans have defeated the Blue Devils just twice – in 2009 and 2016.

 

That (2016) was Gallia Academy’s initial season in the OVC, as Portsmouth has been a member since a year earlier.

 

The Trojans tied Ironton for runner-up to the Blue Devils last season, thanks largely to senior running back Talyn Parker, who is back to his rushing – and scoring – ways.

 

#
1
Name
Talyn Parker
Position
2020
Height
5-11
Weight
195
Current Team
Portsmouth
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
The reigning Division V Southeast District Offensive Player of the Year, Parker put up 266 rushing yards last week against injury-riddled Rock Hill, scoring all five of the Trojans’ touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversion runs in Portsmouth’s 40-28 victory.

 

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils – after edging arch-rival Point Pleasant 14-13 in the Big Blacks’ season-opener the week before – dominated against visiting Chesapeake, rolling to a 55-27 triumph.

 

#
3
Name
James Armstrong
Position
2021
Height
6-00
Weight
190
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
Gallia Academy’s own primary playmaker, junior James Armstrong, enjoyed an excellent game against the Panthers – running wild for 214 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

 

Hence, one of the keys to Friday’s contest will be stopping the other’s speedster tailback.

 

Two years ago, in the Blue Devils’ 36-35 nailbiting win, Parker played big as a sophomore, so Gallia Academy is going to have to swarm him under and keep him in check.

The Blue Devils do have an experience advantage up front, however, and are seen by many observers as a decided favorite for Friday night’s outcome.

 

The Trojan lines are indeed young, and two of Parker’s touchdowns last week went for 59 and 69 yards – in which he broke tackles, got free and utilized his speed.

 

Both teams, with the initial release of the Ohio High School Athletic Association computer ratings, are fourth in their respective regions (Portsmouth in Division V Region 19, Gallia Academy in Division IV Region 15).

 

Worthington Christian at Trimble

Trimble vs Worthington Christian

 

There must be something about the end zone that the Trimble Tomcats are overly protecting.

#
42
Name
Sawyer Koons
Position
2020
Height
6-00
Weight
225
Current Team
Trimble
Leagues
SEO, TVC-Hocking
Seasons
2019

That’s because the undefeated Tomcats – in scoring 35 points in the season opener against Nelsonville-York before back-to-back-to-back Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division shutouts against Belpre (46), Meigs Eastern (48) and South Gallia (45) – have NOT been scored upon all season.

You heard correct.

 

Not one touchdown, not one field goal, and not even one safety.

But this week, that shutout streak to start 2019 will face – by far – its most difficult challenge yet, as the 3-1 Worthington Christian Warriors will invade Tomcat country for an extremely significant non-league tilt.

 

Kickoff on Friday night inside Glouster Memorial Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.

#
10
Name
Conner Wright
Position
2020
Height
5-11
Weight
190
Current Team
Trimble
Leagues
SEO, TVC-Hocking
Seasons
2018, 2019

The Warriors’ only loss is against undefeated Galion Northmor, as the remainder of WC’s opponents have combined for a mark of 2-10.

 

Like Trimble, the Warriors play primarily Division VI or VII squads, as the Tomcats’ toppled opponents are all 2-2 with the exception of 1-3 South Gallia.

#
12
Name
Cameron Kittle
Position
2020
Height
6-01
Weight
175
Current Team
Trimble
Leagues
SEO, TVC-Hocking
Seasons
2019

While Worthington Christian is only 13th in the Division VI, Region 24 computer ratings, the Tomcats sit in third in Division VI, Region 21.

 

Valley at Northwest

Northwest vs Valley

Speaking of protecting a house, that’s exactly what the Northwest Mohawks will attempt on Friday night when they welcome their nearby neighbor – the Valley Indians.

 

But this time, the Mohawks’ house has been superbly renovated, as Northwest will play its first true home game this season – amid its nice new upgraded facilities.

#
12
Name
Andrew Andronis
Position
2021
Current Team
Valley
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019

Kickoff at Northwest High School is set for 7 p.m.

 

Both schools are members of the Southern Ohio Conference, but like the Oak Hill Oaks of last week, Northwest of the SOC I faces Valley of the non-league SOC II.

 

Between the lines, the Indians are 3-1 and on a three-game win streak – and could be 4-0 had they not been plagued by mistakes in their 32-27 season-opening loss at Portsmouth.

 

The young Mohawks (2-2), meanwhile, had their two-game win streak snapped at Oak Hill, as the Oaks are now in the SOC II after dominating the SOC I for a decade.

Northwest is now the biggest fish in that small-school pond, as it plays primarily juniors, sophomores and freshmen – despite its dramatically increased numbers.

 

The Indians are more experienced, and currently hold the eighth spot in the Division VI Region 24 computer ratings.

 

Amanda-Clearcreek at Waverly

Waverly vs Amanda-Clearcreek

 

The Amanda-Clearcreek Aces and Waverly Tigers will play some serious computer games this week, with Friday night’s non-league encounter between a pair of Ohio playoff regulars.

 

The Aces are undefeated while the Tigers are 3-1, as kickoff inside Raidiger Field in Waverly is set for 7 p.m.

 

In a potential playoff points pick-me-up, the Tigers – with wins over Athens and at Fairland – can make a major move in the Division IV, Region 15 rankings.

 

That’s because the Aces are 4-0 in Division V, Region 19, although two of those triumphs are against Liberty Union and Fairfield Union – both winless on the year.

 

Amanda is third in Region 19 while Waverly is fourth in Region 15, as the Tigers’ lone loss is against Unioto, which handled them to the tune of 41-14.

 

That is the same Sherman squad that the Aces, operating out of the power-I and succeeding, trumped 32-14.

 

Raidiger Field will also double as Payton’s Place on Friday night.

#
1
Name
Payton Shoemaker
Position
2020
Height
5-09
Weight
155
Current Team
Waverly
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019

 

While Waverly and its spread-the-field finesse philosophy is paced by senior running back Payton Shoemaker, Amanda-Clearcreek counters with a power-running attack – engineered by senior quarterback Payton Madison.

 

Expect the Aces to employ a ball-control style, trying to play defense by keeping Shoemaker on the sidelines.

 

Jesse Connell is the lead running back and the Aces’ top defensive player, while wide receiver Jayse Miller is a nephew of former legendary A-C head coach Ron Hinton.

 

Amanda’s aerial assault – unlike the Tigers – isn’t expected to be much more than screens, slants and comeback routes.

 

The Aces have, however, had eight turnovers in the previous three weeks.

Blue Devils renew rivalry with Big Blacks; Logan @ Jackson, Minford @ Greenup County

By PAUL BOGGS

“The Battle of The Bridge” is indeed back, and this time, it’s extremely interesting.

Gallia Academy vs Point Pleasant WV

After a two-year hiatus, the annual Ohio River rivalry between the Gallia Academy Blue Devils and the Point Pleasant Big Blacks resumes on Friday night – and both teams are looking to remain undefeated.

But, the Blue Devils are already 2-0, while the visiting Big Blacks – believe it or not – have yet to play a game this season.

In addition, it’s a new-look Point Pleasant squad up against an experienced Gallia Academy club  – coming off its stellar 9-2 campaign and already with two shutouts to start this year.

Kickoff is set for Friday night at historic Memorial Field in Gallipolis at 7 p.m.

The Blue Devils blanked Meigs (24-0) and River Valley (38-0) in their first two tilts, as Gallia Academy – the defending Ohio Valley Conference champion – opens OVC play next week.

But the Big Blacks of Class AA in West Virginia are a step – or two – up in competition for these up-and-coming Blue Devils, as Point Pleasant has recently dominated the long-running series that stopped after 2016.

That year, as the current Gallia Academy seniors were just freshmen, the program went 1-9 – and lost at powerful Point Pleasant 61-12.

Those Big Blacks were spearheaded by then-sophomore quarterback Cason Payne, who has now graduated while setting several school records – and earning all-state honors in West Virginia four times.

Payne rushed and passed for 1,000 yards two times each in those four years, as the Big Blacks qualified for the Class AA playoffs in each.

Point Pleasant also graduated Payne’s primary and record-setting wide receiver, Josh Wamsley, while three of his starting offensive linemen are gone as well.

The Big Blacks do return senior offensive linemen Jacob Muncy and Nate Barth, along with 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago and fellow senior Brady Adkins.

Hunter Bush – a junior – takes over under center for Payne, and despite his lack of significant varsity experience is believed to have a strong throwing arm.

The Big Blacks also return nine starters on defense, as Gallia Academy’s athleticism and speed will need to make plays against Point Pleasant’s experience.

But the Blue Devils do have plenty of playmakers, primarily junior James Armstrong and sophomore Donevyn Woodson.

#
24
Name
Donevyn Woodson
Position
2022
Height
5-11
Weight
145
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019

 

#
3
Name
James Armstrong
Position
2021
Height
6-00
Weight
190
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
  Against River Valley, Armstrong went off for 174 rushing yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns.

That win marked the ninth consecutive in the regular season for the Blue and White, dating back to week three of last season – a narrow 15-9 loss at Jackson.

The Ironmen occupied this week-three post the past two years, which Point Pleasant held before and now does again.

But by this time usually, the Big Blacks – an independent program in the Mountain State – will have had two games under their belts.

Not this season, though, as Point Pleasant is playing only a nine-game regular-season slate – as the Big Blacks couldn’t find a week-one opener at the end of August.

With West Virgina’s 11-week regular season, they had their scheduled bye for the year last week.

So the Blue Devils do have an advantage in having played twice, as they look to close the gap with the Big Blacks and move to 3-0, while securing a victory for VERY valuable Level 2 playoff points down the road.

Point Pleasant is considered the equivalent of an OHSAA Division II team, and is perceived to be set for another strong season – in spite of only nine scheduled games and replacing Payne.

The Big Blacks own the all-time series by a count of 46-37-5.

 

Logan at Jackson

Jackson vs Logan

After playing – and defeating – former Southeastern Ohio Athletic League charter rival Gallia Academy in this week-three spot the last two years, the Jackson Ironmen host their future season-opening opposition on Friday night.

And, it’s a blast from the past, as that would be another SEOAL charter member – the Logan Chieftains.

Only this time, with the SEOAL now defunct, Logan invades Alumni Stadium in Jackson as a non-league opponent – the first time that has happened since 1924 in the now 96th all-time meeting between the two.

Kickoff in the Apple City is set for 7 p.m.

Logan leads the all-time series 46-45-4, having finished with 26 SEOAL championships to Jackson’s 25.

The two clubs did not meet the last two years, as from 1935 through 2016 they had played continuous with the exception of three times – in 1978 (Logan teachers’ strike) and in 2006 and 2007 (SEOAL split into two divisions).

The all-time series scoring is also close, with Logan leading the Ironmen 1,533-1,452.

However, points in the past few campaigns – including this one – have become a premium for the Chieftains, scoring just seven in each of their losses to Tri-Valley (35-7) and Teays Valley (10-7).

Last week’s loss – which was Logan’s ninth in a row – was especially heartbreaking, as the visiting Vikings won on the strength of only a 24-yard second-quarter field goal and an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half.

The Chieftains trailed 10-7 and attempted a late game-tying field goal, but Israel Bookman’s 36-yard attempt doinked off the crossbar.

#
24
Name
Caden McCarty
Position
2021
Current Team
Logan
Leagues
SEO
Seasons
2019
Caden McCarty has scored both of the Chiefs’ touchdowns, rushing for 181 yards on 38 carries, while quarterback Braeden Spatar has rushed for 138 yards on 41 attempts – while completing 11-of-16 passes for 78 yards.

The Ironmen, meanwhile, moved to 2-0 – after holding off Athens 31-26 in that important non-league encounter.

Jackson jumped out to a 19-0 halftime advantage, and actually held a 25-6 lead before the Bulldogs charged back – making it a one-score game with 38 seconds remaining.

The Ironmen offense improved from its sluggish season opener, as Jackson kept the ball on the ground and hammered at Athens with 28 of its 31 first-half plays coming via the run.

For the game, Jayden Spires racked up 123 yards on 24 carries, while Brice Graham gained 85 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns on 21 totes.

The Ironmen defense – especially against the run – was stout in the first half, as the offensively-challenged Chieftains are facing one of the top defensive units in all of Southeastern Ohio.

But look for Logan to bring a physicality that the Ironmen may not have seen against Athens or even Wellston, and if any coach knows Jackson’s Andy Hall well, it’s first-year Logan mentor Mike Eddy.

Eddy, the former four-year Gallia Academy coach, faced off against Hall for four years there – and defeated Jackson in the 2012 regular-season finale.

 

Minford at Greenup County (Ky.)

Greenup County KY vs Minford

The Minford Falcons, for the second week to open this season, put up some  impressive offensive numbers – en route to a 2-0 start.

They aim to compile even more eye-popping statistics this week, but more importantly, earn another win.

That’s because the Falcons face their toughest test to date on Friday night, crossing the river into Greenup County to take on the 2-1 Musketeers.

And, of course, Greenup County standout senior signal-caller Eli Sammons.

A week after rolling Rock Hill 43-12 and amassing 311 total yards, the speed-driven Falcons finished with a massive 544 yards and 24 first downs against Chesapeake, capturing a 54-21 triumph.

#
25
Name
Ty Wiget
Position
2020
Height
5-09
Weight
175
Current Team
Minford
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Ty Wiget, Minford’s standout senior running back, went off for a career-best 301 yards and four scores on only 10 carries – improving upon his 121-yard, two-TD, 14-carry performance against Rock Hill.

#
2
Name
Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis
Height
5-10
Weight
175
Current Team
Minford
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis – the left-handed quarterback – had those exact same rushing stats (14-121) against the Panthers, along with two passing touchdowns on 5-of-6 attempts for 94 yards.

Speaking of quarterbacks, the Minford defense faces the tall, talented and highly-touted Sammons this week.

Sammons stands six-foot, six-inches tall and weighs 200 pounds, and already is a signee with Marshall University.

The Musketeers fell to Raceland 17-14 in their season opener, as the Rams sealed the win with a late Sammons interception.

But Sammons and Greenup gained two wins since, prevailing in a 40-36 shootout at Fleming County (Aug. 30), before rolling Montgomery County with a 54-12 romp.

Against Montgomery, Sammons threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another.

He scored on quarterback sneaks for the Musketeers’ two trips against Raceland, then accounted for five TD against Fleming – three on the ground and two via the air.

The dual-threat Sammons is once again a stark contrast in offensive philosophies, as Minford has faced run-oriented OVC clubs Rock Hill and Chesapeake.

Greenup is equivalent to an OHSAA Division III program, which potentially means valuable playoff points for the Division V Falcons – assuming they fly the ‘W’.

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Devils reloading for another strong year

By PAUL BOGGS

Photo’s by Kent Sanborn

 

GALLIPOLIS – Gallia Academy football is indeed back atop the mountain.

Now, comes the challenge of staying there.

Alex Penrod, in only his second season as Blue Devil head coach, completely changed the Gallia Academy culture – all the way to a 9-1 regular-season record, a conference championship and a Division IV state playoff appearance.

However, the Blue Devils did graduate several standouts – and so now the 40 Devils of this season – are tasked with sustaining similar success.

“It’s truly going from the hunter to the hunted. The senior class of last year faced an uphill battle their entire careers, and it was so rewarding to see all of their hard work and sacrifice and dedication pay off last year. These sophomores and freshmen on the team this year know nothing but winning football games, because they have won at the junior-high level on up,” said Penrod. “We’ve got some good experienced players coming back, especially along our lines, but we’ve got to replace some special skilled position players, so we’re a little younger there. There is a lot of excitement and school spirit and community pride around this program right now, so expectations are a little different, but if we can stay healthy, we are confident we can continue to build on what we’ve done the last two years.”

To know the Blue Devils’ promising present, and future, means recognizing their recent past.

Prior to Penrod’s arrival, Gallia Academy’s last league championship and playoff berth was as a member of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League in 2012, as the Blue Devils had hit hard times with back-to-back 1-9 campaigns in 2015 and 2016.

But those two lean years featured freshmen and sophomores in almost all spots, so they gained valuable experience despite taking their lumps.

After improving to 5-5 in Penrod’s first season, the Blue Devils’ dividends were finally paid off a year ago.

They rallied past Ironton en route to capturing their first Ohio Valley Conference championship – in only their third year in the league.

In fact, had it not been for a massive 17-play, 99-yard fourth-quarter drive by the Jackson Ironmen in early September, as host Jackson scored the game-winning touchdown with two minutes to play, the Blue would have experienced a perfect regular season.

For his part, Penrod captured not only the Division IV Southeast District Coach of the Year, but also the Ohio Division IV Coach of the Year.

He said, though, it meant more to him to see the success of his players.

“It was an incredible journey for that senior class to see where they had come from as freshmen and sophomores. They had experienced and knew nothing but defeat up until two years ago. But we, as coaches and players, flipped the switch, we instilled a brotherhood in one another and decided to came together to work harder and get better,” said Penrod. “We had some players that had been starting since they were freshmen or sophomores, but they started believing they could win. It was a very determined, very gritty group that was rightly rewarded with what they accomplished last year.”

Among those seniors were linebacker Jacob Campbell, the Southeast District Division IV Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-Ohioan, and Justin McClelland, the four-year starting quarterback who was first-team all-district and also all-state.

Other key graduation losses were running back Boo Pullins, wide receivers Cory Call and Cole Davis, and linemen Carter Campbell, Colton Russell, Logan Rose and Christian Mayse.

Pullins posted first-team all-district honors, and Call captured Honorable Mention.

Still, the Blue Devils do return a bevy of experience, so don’t assume the cupboard is any way at all bare.

The strength of the team is the offensive and defensive lines, which exhibit size and even height.

Three starters return on offense, anchored by senior tackle Riley Starnes,

#
50
Name
Riley Starnes
Position
2021
Height
6-05
Weight
295
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019
  a three-year starter who was an all-district first-teamer.

Starnes stands at six-feet five-inches tall and weighs 295 pounds, while junior right guard Yashua Peaks is 6-4 and 315.

Mason Angel, an Honorable Mention all-district selection, returns at left tackle and is a 6-2, 280-pound senior.

Starnes, fellow senior Zach Canaday (6-1, 245) and junior Jarrell Scott (6-0, 180) make up an experienced defensive front.

“We have both size and experience up front,” said Penrod. “But we have to develop some depth on both sides. That’s going to be something we get better at day-by-day.”

The converse is true for the skilled positions, which showcases depth and speed but not as much experience.

The top returnee is all-purpose junior James Armstrong (6-0, 190), who was an all-district first-teamer in that exact category.

#
3
Name
James Armstrong
Position
2021
Height
6-00
Weight
190
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019

Armstrong is noted for his speed and breakaway ability once he touches the ball – whether it be rushing, receiving or returning kicks.

“James Armstrong is fast and he has picked up some size and strength this offseason,” said Penrod. “We lined him up mainly as a slot receiver last year, but this year we can line him up out wide, at tailback, run him on jet sweeps, really get him involved in the entire field and allow him to use his speed and athleticism and get away from defenders.”

Cade Roberts (6-1, 225, Sr.) returns as the full-time fullback, having added 10 pounds to his frame.

#
34
Name
Cade Roberts
Position
2020
Height
6-01
Weight
225
Current Team
Gallia Academy
Leagues
OVC, SEO
Seasons
2019

Roberts – a first-team all-district defender – will also be the leading linebacker given the graduation of Campbell.

“Cade Roberts is a key returnee on both sides of the ball,” said Penrod.  “He is an outstanding linebacker.”

Replacing McClelland at quarterback is junior Nate Vanco (6-2, 195), while replacing Call and Davis include seniors Ryan Donovsky (6-1, 180), Evan Rodgers (6-3, 170) and Ben Cox (6-1, 200) and sophomores Briar Williams (5-10, 150) and Doneuvyn Woodson (5-11, 145).

“Nate (Vanco) is doing a nice job understanding the whole offense. He is a good runner, we can mix things up and put in packages that help him and really play to his strengths. He can throw the ball too. We have multiple guys who can rotate at receiver, and they have good hands to catch the ball,” said Penrod. “What we might lack in size, we make up with speed, and we can run a lot of motion and just get the ball in the hands of our playmakers.”

Those same skilled players make up the secondary, including Armstrong, Donovsky, Williams, Woodson, Cox and juniors Michael Beasy and Grant Bryan.

Trent Johnson (5-10, 175, Jr.) and Cameron Webb (6-0, 170, Jr.) join Roberts as linebackers.

Overall, the Blue Devil defense is smaller but quicker.

“We’re a smaller defense size-wise, so we have a lot of athletic, skilled-oriented kids that have speed, can be aggressive and get to the football,” said Penrod. “Our mantra is ‘relentless effort’. We might make mistakes, miss tackles, give up a big play from time to time. Those things are going to happen. But we always expect relentless effort on every play.”

That Blue Devil defense should get a boost from senior punter and placekicker Andrew Toler (6-1, 185), a GAHS soccer standout whom the coach said has been more committed to football this season.

“He (Toler) went to several camps and is really a weapon both placekicking and punting,” said Penrod. “His leg can change the dynamic of the game with field position. He has been getting a lot of kickoffs in the end zone. He can kick field goals consistently 35 to 40 yards. Twenty yards in punting or kicking makes a major difference in high school football.”

And, it can also easily impact the outcomes of games.

Penrod knows the remainder of the OVC is out to knock the defending champions off their pedestal.

Head Coach Alexander K Penrod

Current Team
Gallia Academy
Past Teams
Alexander

“This league is wide open and we know it’s even more difficult when you’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” he said. “There is a lot of talent, a lot of good players, a lot of good coaches that I have a lot of respect for in the OVC. But preparing each week for everybody’s best game is what makes it fun.”

And, indeed, the Blue Devils do believe another fun season is ahead of them.

“We need to stay healthy of course, but these kids believe in themselves and each other now. They know they are capable of winning,” said Penrod. “Our expectations are increased, but Blue Devil football should be something around here we get excited about. I’m excited to see what we can do on Friday nights this fall.”

Gallia Academy 2019 Roster & Stats

#PlayerPositionHeightWeightCMPATTINTPYDSTDATTRUYDSTDRECREYDSTDSacksTacklesINTFGMFGA
1Briar Williams20225-101500000024305225304200000
2Ben Cox20206-012100000017015191100000
3James Armstrong20216-0019000000152111611774000000
4Cameron Webb20216-00170000000004102100000
5Noah Vanco20216-0219510516751329923-110100000000
6Ryan Donovsky20206-0118000000000379000000
8David Wills20235-081200000000000000000
9Kyrell Rencher20235-091350000000000000000
10Brody Fellure20235-09145220281998100000000
11Mason Skidmore20235-0915000000000121100000
12Trent Johnson20215-1017500000260643000000
13Zach Belville20215-1016000000000116000000
14Grant Bryan20215-101600000000000000000
15Evan Rodgers20206-031700000000017000000
20Michael Beasy20216-00165000001227711210101100000
21Blake Skidmore20226-01145000001-1000000000
22Carson Call20225-1116000000340000000000
24Donevyn Woodson20225-111450000011126013122300000
25Jacob Hill20215-111600000000000000000
34Cade Roberts20206-01225000001377221315100000
40Adam Stout20215-101350000000000000000
44Caleb Geiser20225-1016500000931000000000
45Andrew Toler20206-0118500000110000000000
50Riley Starnes20216-052950000000000000000
51Garrison Garnes20225-112000000000000000000
52Gabe Raynor20235-111900000000000000000
53Zack Hemby20216-021900000000000000000
54Brant Rocchi20216-001800000000000000000
55Yashua Peaks20216-043150000000000000000
56Cole Rose20206-022350000000000000000
58Trent Meadows20206-001900000000000000000
59Jarrell Scott20216-001800000000000000000
63Collin Watson20225-101850000000000000000
64Brayden Easton20226-011900000000000000000
67Mason Smith20236-001750000000000000000
68Shane Stroud20225-081750000000000000000
69Mason Angel20206-022800000000000000000
73Zac Canaday20206-012450000000000000000
74Dakota McCoy20225-091650000000000000000
77Isaac Clary20236-062800000000000000000