Big-play running game powers Polk to Senior Night romp past Madison

Polk County senior Braden Miller clears some running room during first-half action in Friday's win.

Polk County delivered its fireworks early Friday night, then celebrated late.

The Wolverines used three long runs to build a 28-8 halftime lead and got another big play in the second half en route to a 42-24 victory over Madison on Senior Night in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

A night that felt more like September than November also felt just right for Polk County’s athletic program, which celebrated an outstanding fall season by honoring its golf, tennis, soccer, cross country and volleyball teams during the evening.

Amid all those recognitions, the Wolverines (7-4, 3-2) put forth an effort worthy of praise as well. Polk County rushed for 361 yards and had four backs with at least 60 yards, led by Elijah Sutton, who rushed for 104 yards and scored three touchdowns, including one on a blocked punt.

Polk County will now wait for Saturday’s announcement of the state 1AA football pairings to find out whether its playoff opener will be at home or on the road. Either way, the Wolverines built a fair bit of steam for a postseason run.

“This gives us a lot of momentum moving into the playoffs,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis, who had his own celebration with all four of his children and one grandchild on the field after the game. “Now we wait and see if we have to get on a train and go somewhere next week or if we get to stay home.

“I’m awfully proud of this football team after a tough loss last week. I know my chin was on my chest for a couple of days, because we had a chance to beat a really good team. But we put that behind us and we came out and executed well and got a good win.”

Polk County ground out an 11-play, 54-yard drive on the opening possession of the game, capped by Bryson Seay’s 3-yard touchdown run, to take a 7-0 lead. Then then fun began.

On the Wolverines’ next possession, Sutton raced 53 yards around right end on the first play for another score, upping Polk’s lead to 14-0 with 4:33 left in the first period. A fumble stalled the Wolverines’ next drive, and Madison capitalized with a short drive for a Ty Snelson 1-yard scoring plunge, making it 14-8 early in the second quarter.

Following the kickoff, Braden Miller raced 59 yards on Polk’s first play, moving the Wolverines to the 5, with Sutton easily scoring from there on the next play. After a Madison punt, Seay rumbled 52 yards to move the Wolverines to the 2, and Austin Wilson plunged in from the 1 and Luis Hernandez added the extra point to make it 28-8 with 6:24 left in the second period.

That’s three 50-yard-plus runs by three different players, for those keeping score at home.

“Our fullbacks really ran well and gave us some impetus there,” Ollis said.

Senior Dillon Knighton races for yardage during Friday’s win. Knighton picked up 62 yards on six carries.

Polk County put together a 14-play, 76-yard drive lasting six minutes on its first possession of the third quarter, with Avery Edwards scoring on a 4-yard keeper. The Wolverines converted three third downs on the drive, including a 3rd-and-20 and a 3rd-and-10.

The lead would grow to 42-8 early in the fourth period as Sutton, who has come close to blocking punts all season, finally got one, then recovered the smothered boot in the end zone.

“I’ve told Elijah all year that he was going to block a punt,” Ollis said. “He finally got one.”

The Wolverines were able to substitute freely throughout the rest of the period, and Madison used a Zeke Fender kickoff return and Clark Gray 32-yard run to reduce the final margin.

Miller rushed for 78 yards, Seay had 76 and Dillon Knighton had 62 yards for the Wolverines.

“What a great win for our seniors. A lot of them contributed tonight,” Ollis said. “We didn’t throw and catch very well, but we can work on that and correct that.

“I’m happy for our seniors and our football team. They did a lot of good things tonight.”