GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — The Gallia Acadademy football team will be making its return to the postseason for the first time since 2006 Saturday night when it hosts the Archbishop McNicholas Rockets.
The Blue Devils have not hosted a postseason game since 2005 when they fell to Sheridan 42-35 in overtime.
“Obviously there’s a couple of advantages there,” Gallia Academy head coach Mike Eddy said of the the home field advantage. “Field condition is going to benefit us more because we are a little bit bigger, maybe slower team, so the mud is a great equalizer for their offense. It’s important that it is here, these kids deserve to be able to play at home. For the fans who have supported us, they deserve to get to come and watch a game at home and not have to travel.”
McNicholas finished the regular season with a 7-3 record and a three game winning streak. The winning streak is the Rockets’ longest of the year. The Rockets are 2-3 against teams that finished the season with a winning record this year.
McNicholas’ wins this year came over Newport Central Catholic (6-4) by a score of 27-24 at home in week one, New Richmond (5-5) on the road by a score of 61-13 in week two, Carroll (2-7) on the road by a score of 42-14 in week four, Bishop Fenwick (8-2) by a score of 45-44 at home in week five, Roger Bacon (0-10) at home by a score of 38-12 in week eight, Purcell Marian (3-7) at home by a score of 48-14 in week nine, and Badin (5-5) by the time of 29-12 in week 10.
The Rockets’ have fell at Turpin (10-0) by the score of 34-7 in week three, at Chaminade-Julienne (6-4) by the score of 27-10 in week six, and to visiting Archbishop Alter (8-1-1) by the sc0re of 37-27 in week seven.
McNicholas is making it’s ninth playoff appearance, the first since 2010 when the Rockets were state semi-finalists. The Rockets also made the postseason in 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1987, and 1984. AMHS was the state runner-up in 1984.
“Overall it’s their athleticism and their quickness,” Eddy said on his concerns with the Rockets. They’re going to be a much smaller team than we are but that means that potentially they’re going to be a whole lot quicker than we are. Their mobility is going to be a big adjustment for us because the last few weeks we’ve been playing bigger, stronger, grind-it-out teams types of football teams and all of a sudden we’re back to playing an Athens style team that we haven’t seen since week one. It’s defiantly going to be an adjustment for us. We wanna be able to keep the game close so that whenever we do get opportunities advantage of our conditioning, our size and our strength we can do that.”
Austin Ernst leads the Rocket offense with 2,404 yards passing with 23 touchdowns and 487 yards rushing with 7 touchdowns. Ernst has accounted for over 68 percent of the AMHS touchdowns and over 65 percent of the AMHS total yards this sason. Ernst has completed 156-of-242 pass attempts this year, while rushing 120 times this season.
Aside from Ernst, Sean Byrne leads the Rockets’ rushing attack with 349 yards on 68 attempts with five scores. Brad Rice also carries the ball for McNicholas, as he compiled 196 yards and two TD’s on 37 carries this year.
Thomas Vogele led the receiving for the Rockets with 532 yards and eight touchdowns on 21 catches. Following Vogele is Luke Sulken with 504 yards and seven scores on 25 grabs, Byrne with 389 yards and two touchdowns on 34 catches, Jacob Lind with 374 yards and four touchdowns on 24 catches, and Rice with 285 yards on 22 receptions.
Vogele leads the defense for McNicholas with 41 tackles and an interception, followed by Kevin McHale with 35 tackles and Rice with 27.
This is the first playoff appearance for Gallia Academy under Eddy.
“It is personally gratifying,” Eddy said. “Obviously when you get into this thing you want to do great things and this is an opportunity for us to do that. But it’s so much bigger than that, the head coach is only a portion. I do a lot less coaching than I’ve ever done, it’s more of an administrative job than it is rally a coaching job. From that standpoint I’m more pleased for the guys I’ve surrounded myself with. For most of these guys on the staff it’s their first time in the playoffs so I’m proud of them and happy that they get to experience this.”
Gallia Academy currently is on a seven game winning streak in which the Blue Devils have out scored opponents 277-to-115.
The Rockets and Blue Devils kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Memorial Field.