After falling behind 21-7 with 11:08 to play in the second quarter, Galion scored 31 unanswered points to pick up a 38-21 victory over River Valley in front of a large homecoming crowd at Unckrich Stadium.
“I was very proud of our guys,” said Galion head coach Chris Hawkins. “(River Valley) knocked us to the canvass (in the first half). They even bloodied our mouth. But we talked about it at halftime, when you don’t knock a championship-caliber team out, they’ve got the chance to come back, and that’s exactly what we did in the second half. That was one of the best halves of football that I’ve ever been involved in.”
Drake Barnett rushed for three touchdowns in the third quarter to lead the Tigers’ second half explosion against the Vikings. The senior running back scored on runs of 1, 13 and 3 yards for Galion in the pivotal third quarter and finished with 123 yards rushing on 28 carries.
The Galion defense came to life in the second half, sacking Vikings quarterback Jax Harville three times with Bobby Gilbert, Zach Throckmorton and Isaiah Davis each recording one. Jacob Fryer and Ryan Talbott each had an interception.
The Tigers’ defensive line recorded six pass deflections, including four on River Valley’s final drive. Davis was credited with three. Dominick Monk batted down two passes and Paul Keller had one.
“That was huge,” said Hawkins. “What was nice to see was that we had some deficiencies and we worked hard on them the last two weeks. Our open-field tackling against Marion Harding was atrocious. We’re still not great, but we were better tonight. We worked on splitting double teams in the pass rush, and if you can’t get to the quarterback, throw your hands up. Those guys did that and they got those six deflections.”
The win helped the Tigers keep pace with the frontrunners in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division. Jonathan Alder (6-1, 4-0 MOAC) is alone at the top of the standings. River Valley (5-2, 3-1 MOAC) and Buckeye Valley (4-3, 3-1 MOAC) are tied for second. Galion (5-2, 2-2 MOAC) is tied for third place with North Union (4-3, 2-2 MOAC) and Marion Harding (2-5, 2-2 MOAC).
River Valley got on the scoreboard first when Carson Parsell scored on a 3-yard run at the 8:14 mark of the first quarter to cap the first possession of the game. A missed extra point left the Vikings with a 6-0 lead.
Jacob Fryer tallied Galion’s first score on a 4-yard run at 3:52 of the first period. After Conner Moreton drilled the point after attempt, Galion took a short-lived 7-6 edge.
River Valley struck back to regain the lead before the first quarter ended. Harville scored on an 11-yard run with one second left to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead.
Parsell scored River Valley’s final points of the game with 11:08 remaining in the second period, catching a 41-yard touchdown pass from Harville to give the Vikings a 21-7 cushion.
Fryer scored his second touchdown of the game when he caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Chase Cooke with 27 seconds left in the second quarter to pull the Tigers to within one score at halftime, 21-14.
The Tigers converted three possessions into three scores in the third period. Galion received the opening kickoff of the second half and marched down the field to tie the game in just over a minute. Barnett scored from a yard out at the 10:52 mark. The key play of the drive was a 57-yard pass completion from Cooke to Fryer that moved the ball to the Vikings 1.
Galion forced a three-and-out on River Valley’s first chance on offense in the third period, then took advantage of a short field to take the lead for good. Barnett carried the ball on five of the eight plays in the 52-yard drive, then scored on a 13-yard sprint that gave the Tigers a 28-21 lead with 5:48 remaining.
A botched fake punt attempt by River Valley gave the Tigers yet another short field to work with on their next possession. Galion took over at the Vikings 29 and Barnett once again carried the load, handling the ball on every snap of the four-play surge. He finished off the drive with a 3-yard scoring run that pushed the Galion lead to 35-21 with 2:39 remaining in the third.
Conner Moreton tallied Galion’s final points when he connected on a 32-yard field goal with 4:53 to play in the fourth period.
“I just think, all round both sides of the ball, we didn’t play a very good second half,” said River Valley head coach Doug Green. “(Galion) forced us into some things we’re not used to doing. They were able to run the ball and run the clock on us.”
In addition to Barnett’s 123 rushing yards, Fryer racked up 65 yards on 16 carries. The Tigers finished with 195 rushing yards and 294 total yards.
Cooke completed 5-of-7 passes for 86 yards and the one scoring toss. Fryer was 2-for-4 for 13 yards with an interception. Fryer finished with 73 receiving yards.
Harville was 15-of-33 for 188 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Parsell was his favorite target with four catches for 59 yards. Dominic Ross made four catches for 44 yards. River Valley finished with 269 total yards. Galion held the Vikings to just 81 yards rushing.
Galion heads south in Week 8 to take on Fairbanks in Milford Center. The Panthers (0-7, 0-4 MOAC) lost to North Union, 46-21.
River Valley battles Buckeye Valley next week for sole possession of second place in the Red Division.
Follow the Galion Inquirer sports department on Twitter @GalionSports.
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