PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — Frequently the comparison is drawn between a battlefield and the gridiron.
But in the case of Portsmouth’s 10-7 loss to Gallia Academy Friday night, the physicality of play and the backdrop of a burning building made the old cliche more relevant.
Gallia Academy’s Brandon Taylor kicked the go-ahead field goal with 1:25 remaining in the game with the backdrop of an abandoned home burning to the right of the uprights.
“We don’t ever win by large margins or running away from teams. We have adversity every week and that just shows the resiliency of our players,” Gallia Academy coach Mike Eddy said. “And for Brandon to go out there with that happening and kick the game-winning field goal, it shows the mentality of our team.”
The first half left a lot to be desire for both teams as they went into the intermission without a score.
Portsmouth’s Austin Porter blocked Gallia Academy’s punt attempt at the end of the first possession of the game and Ethan Blackburn recovered giving the Trojans great field position at the Gallia Academy 22-yard-line.
Portsmouth could only advance four yards before Zaide Whitley’s 35-yard field goal attempt went wide.
The Blue Devils took over briefly and punted after only moving three yards in three plays giving it back to the Trojans at their 46-yard-line.
Portsmouth advanced into Blue Devil territory but retreated back to their starting position after a negative play and two penalties and punted.
Gallia Academy started at their own 13-yard-line on the ensuing drive but could only get to the 25-yard-line before the Portsmouth defense forced another punt.
On the first play of the subsequent drive, Portsmouth’s Mason Jordan completed a pass to Wayne Evans but Evans fumbled and Gallia Academy’s Bryant Bokovitz recovered at the 45-yard-line.
Taylor took the hand off on the play following the turnover but fumbled and Portsmouth’s Dion McKinley was there to recovered at the 44-yard-line of Portsmouth.
The Trojans drove into Blue Devil territory before retreating on a pair of negative plays and were again forced to punt.
“In games like this it boils down to who makes the crucial mistake and when you make them,” Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford said. “They made theirs and we made ours and they just took advantage of what they had.”
Gallia Academy took over at their own 36-yard-line with 10:55 remaining in the half and marched to the Portsmouth 29-yard-line before a Wade Jarrell pass fell incomplete on fourth down to turn it back over to the Trojans.
Portsmouth suffered another three-and-out and Gallia Academy an eight-play drive to reach the Portsmouth 25-yard-line but Taylor pushed a field goal attempt wide with 35.9 seconds remaining.
Portsmouth kneeled the remaining time away to go to the locker room for the intermission.
The second half saw more life from the dormant offensives but the first drive from Portsmouth was stalled after Mason Jordan left the game the game with an injury on third down and the Blue Devils took over on their own 28-yard-line with 10:46 left in the third quarter.
Gallia Academy’s offense came alive using a formation that aligned the fullback less than a yard behind the guards opening holes for Taylor.
“We really just went in and made a few adjustments and our kids know what they are doing,” Eddy said. “In our offense the defense always keys of the guard so we moved the fullback up to that spot to add a little wrinkle to the reads they might make.”
Taylor touched the ball on 11 of the 18 plays of the first scoring drive of the game that went 72 yards and was capped by a Cody Russell 2-yard rushing touchdown with 1:02 remaining in the third giving the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead.
“We don’t have the flashiest team in the world but we have some guys that battle for us and just keep the legs churning and that’s what got us the win tonight,” Eddy said. “I couldn’t be more proud of all our guys.”
Portsmouth could move only 12 yards on their next drive but Gallia Academy muffed Whitely’s punt and Romaine Mills recovered for the Trojans at the Gallia Academy 26-yard-line.
Mason Jordan then connected with Wayne Evans on a 25-yard touchdown pass on third down and the Whitely extra point tied the game at seven with 10:12 to play.
At that point the fire department had been called for a fire just beyond the Coliseum that had become a distraction to many of the patrons but play continued unimpeded.
An excellent kick return by Shaylin Logan set up the Blue Devils on the 50-yard-line but the offense could only get to the Portsmouth 24-yard-line before the Trojans defense forced Gallia Academy into a field goal attempt that again went wide.
The Blue Devil defense held the Trojans to another three-and-out and with the fire raging in the background and Gallia Academy took over at Portsmouth 38-yard-line.
Russell was held to just a three-yard gain on third down to set up a 32-yard field goal attempt for the Blue Devils with 1:25 left in the game.
“You battle all game for a chance like that and our guys did what they needed to do in that situation,” Eddy said.
Perhaps the distraction of a burning building in the background was the fix Taylor needed as his third field goal attempt of the game was true from 32-yards out to give the Blue Devils the lead with 1:25 remaining.
“We talk about adversity all the time and while we weren’t necessarily happy with the way this game was going, we weren’t surprised to see them turn it around,” Eddy said.
Portsmouth started at their own 26-yard-line with 1:19 remaining and Jordan connected with L. J. Adams for eleven yards and then ran for eight to get to the 46-yard-line but a false start penalty and pressure from the Blue Devils defense short-circuited any comeback hopes for Portsmouth.
After a fourth down pass fell incomplete, Gallia Academy took over with 23.3 seconds remaining and kneeled the game to its 10-7 final.
“Our kids played their guts out and played so hard like they do every week,” Clifford said. “We are sitting at 2-6 but I know our kids will go out and play as hard as they can next week.”
Clifford felt there were certain situations his team did not capitalize and that cost the Trojans in the end.
“Tonight there was some crucial mistakes made by us missing some open receivers and struggling to block up front,” Clifford said. “When we tied it up we didn’t ratchet it up on special teams and that cost us.”
Gallia Academy improves to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in the SEOAL while Portsmouth drops to 2-6 and 1-3 in the SEOAL.
The Blue Devils return to action Friday when they host Warren on Senior Night in a Week 9 SEOAL contest at Memorial Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Bob Strickley is the sports editor of the Portsmouth Daily Times in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Gallia Academy 10, Portsmouth 7
P 0-0-0-7 —7
GA — Cody Russell 2 run (Brandon Taylor kick) 1:02
P — Wayne Evans 25 pass from Mason Jordan (Zaide Whitley kick) 10:12
GA — Brandon Taylor 32 FG 1:25
Portsmouth - Jordan 8—23, Whitley 2-6, Edwards 2—1, Robinson 3-15.
Gallia Academy - Taylor 20-225, Russell 16-66 TD, Warnimont 3-4, Jarrell 1-1, Tackett 3-4.
Portsmouth - Jordan 9-17-67 TD, Stapleton 0-1-0.
Gallia Academy - Jarrell 6-12-51.
Portsmouth - Evans 4-27 TD, Adams 3-10, Whitely 1-11, McKinley 1-9.
Gallia Academy - Taylor 4-38, Bailey 2-13.