Gallia Academy jumped out to an early lead Tuesday night and then held on for a 3-1 victory in a non-conference game against the shorthanded Athens Bulldogs.

The visiting Blue Devils’ first goal came just three minutes into the match when Maddux Camden gathered a loose ball off a corner kick near the top of the penalty box and blasted it through a crowd of players past goalkeeper Sebas Arauz.

The Bulldogs answered almost immediately when sophomore Andy Pigman sent a crossing ball from the left side to junior Brady Jaunarajs, who twisted in the air before tapping it in for the score. Sixty seconds later, Jaunarajs threatened again when he took a through ball up the middle for a one-on-one with the Gallia Academy keeper, but this time the Bulldogs’ leading scorer came away empty handed.

Throughout the first forty minutes, the Bulldog midfield looked sharp, stringing passes together and playing balls to feet. Dangerous crossing balls from senior Rowan Featheringham and junior Russell Otieno provided opportunities for shots on goal, but the crosses either missed their targets or were swept aside by the Gallia defense.

Athens’ best chance to gain the upper hand before halftime came when the Bulldogs were awarded a direct free kick 25 yards from the Gallia Academy net, but senior Braulio Rosas-Clouse’s shot was smothered by the Blue Devils’ keeper.

Instead, it was the Blue Devils that seized the lead late in the half when Keagan Daniels broke free down the left side of the pitch, maneuvered past three Bulldog defenders to the end line, and then dished the ball to teammate Seth Nelson for the easy goal.

In the second half, the Bulldogs continued to dominate possession in the middle third of the field and, at times, appeared to be the stronger side. With 11 shots on goal for the game, compared to just five for the Blue Devils, it seemed like just a matter of time before Athens would even the score. But possession and fine passing did not translate into more goals, as all of the Bulldogs’ second-half shots either went wide or were easily handled by the keeper.

Despite strong second-half performances from senior Andy Pagan and junior Luke Frost, quality minutes off the bench from defensive midfielders Lars Westenbarger and Alex Hendrickson, and a spectacular diving save by goalkeeper Nathan Kallet in the eighth minute, the Bulldog defense proved susceptible to the breakaway once again when, with just over 20 minutes remaining, Daniels put the game out of reach for Gallia Academy after an impressive unassisted run up the middle.

With two starters returning to the lineup, the Bulldogs (4-2-2) hope to regroup in time for a key matchup against rival Warren High School Thursday evening.

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