Hendersonville Middle’s perfect run through the West Division of the Blue Ridge Middle School Conference very nearly took a detour Thursday afternoon at Polk County Middle.
No wonder the Bearcats’ postgame shouts sounded as full of relief as elation.
Polk Middle put together its best effort of season and nearly engineered an upset, finally falling 14-6 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Wolverines (2-5) held Hendersonville (6-1) scoreless in the first half, but a pair of Bearcat touchdowns left Polk Middle down 14-0 with 7:56 remaining in the game.
In the wake of Hendersonville’s second score, the Wolverines went to work, driving downfield and scoring on a 5-yard pass from Shane Parris to Dakota Twitty. Polk’s 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Bearcats’ lead at eight.
Hendersonville recovered Polk Middle’s ensuing onside kick attempt, but the Wolverine defense delivered a stop, forcing a Hendersonville punt that gave Polk possession at its 27 with 1:40 remaining in the game.
The Wolverine offense began to click. Parris picked up a pair of first downs running, including an 8-yard gain on fourth-and-1 at midfield, and the Wolverines moved to the Bearcat 42. A sack and a pass incompletion left Polk facing third-and-13 at the 45 with 18 seconds to play.
But there, Hendersonville’s defense finally got the stop it needed, heavy pressure forcing an interception with 12 seconds left. The Bearcats took a knee and began to celebrate a win they had to earn.
“This is the best we’ve played all season and the best that Hendersonville has had to play this season,” said Polk County head coach Ethan Edwards. “A lot of guys made plays they hadn’t made all year, and that shows they’ve been working hard.
“Even though we lost, these kids have been working hard the last week, and it showed today.”
The day might well have belonged to the Wolverines had they fared better in the red zone in the first half. Polk had three possessions in the opening two quarters. On each, the Wolverines drove inside the Hendersonville 20, twice moving inside the 10. Each time, Polk failed to score.
Capping the frustration was the final play of the first half, when Parris was stopped inches short of the goal line on a second-and-goal play from the 1 as time ran out.
“We came up empty on three trips in the red zone in the first half, and that’s not what the game plan called for,” Edwards said. “We knew we had to limit the time they had they ball, and we did that. We just came up empty.”
Polk Middle will get one more game at home, hosting a BRMSC postseason game next Thursday against an opponent to be determined.