BOSTIC – For a quarter Friday night, Polk County’s trip to East Rutherford had a familiar feel – and not a welcome one.
Largely following the script that Pisgah relied on in the second half a week ago, East Rutherford built a 15-0 lead in the first quarter, then made that advantage stick in handing Polk County a 25-7 non-conference setback in Bostic.
The Cavaliers (4-2) no doubt reviewed Polk County’s 49-28 loss a week ago at Pisgah, and it proved time well spent. For the first 12 minutes Friday night it felt like East Rutherford never left the field, largely because the Cavaliers barely did; East ran 22 offensive plays in the first quarter to Polk County’s six, controlling the ball for almost eight minutes.
Much of that time was spent handing off to junior Demetrius Mauney, usually with Mauney sweeping around the right side, occasionally cutting back up the middle. Mauney carried 16 times in the first quarter, nearly reaching the 100-yard mark as the Cavaliers scored on two of their first three possessions, first on a 42-yard scamper up the middle by quarterback Cameron Simmons, then on a 4-yard Mauney run.
Polk County, meanwhile, didn’t pick up a first down until the next-to-last play of the quarter and struggled to find an offensive rhythm most of the night – 0-for-11 on third downs, three turnovers and a season-low 162 yards of total offense.
“They went to school on the Pisgah film. There’s no doubt about that,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “We’ve got to protect the ball better and we’ve got to find a way to be more consistent on offense. We’re trying to find an identity and we’ve got to do that before next Friday gets here.”
Yet throw out the first period and the Wolverines held their own, even if the scoreboard at night’s end didn’t reflect such. East Rutherford never scored another offensive touchdown and unofficially had less than 100 total yards of offense in the final three quarters.
“Our defense came out in the second half and played unbelievable,” Ollis said. “I was certainly proud of the way our guys battled. I think we gave great effort until the end and that’s a positive takeaway from the game.”
Polk responded to East Rutherford’s second score, Mauney’s short run with 1:02 left in the first, with its best drive of the night, a nine-play, 70-yard march. Elijah Sutton capped the effort with an 11-yard pass reception, taking a swing pass from Dillon Overholt and weaving through a group of East defenders to the end zone. Wyatt Derkach’s extra point made it 15-7 with 10:23 left in the second period.
Polk County stopped East on its next possession and seemed poised to regain momentum, but disaster struck on the Wolverines’ second play. A pair of Cavalier defenders sandwiched a scrambling Overholt and forced a fumble, which East’s Jordan Harris picked up and carried 28 yards to the end zone. It was the Cavaliers’ fourth defensive touchdown of the season and it, along with Austin Roderick’s extra point, gave East a 22-7 lead with 4:52 left in the second quarter.
The Wolverines received a break late in the half as a low snap on an East Rutherford failed punt attempt gave Polk County the ball at the Cavalier 18 with 1:09 remaining. But a sack and a holding penalty pushed the Wolverines back to the 39 and ended hopes for a late score.
Another holding penalty thwarted the Wolverines’ opening drive of the second half, negating a long pass to Markell Lipscomb, and the game settled into a battle of punts and fourth-down attempts. East Rutherford tacked on a field goal with 5:01 left in the game for the final margin.
“Nobody likes to lose, so we’ve got to find a way to do something about it,” Ollis said. “Our players are going to have to rebound from two consecutive losses and coaches are going to have to keep their chins up, too.”
Mauney finished with 166 yards on 26 carries, with Simmons adding 60 yads on nine attempts. Overholt was 9-of-20 for 70 yards to lead Polk County’s offense.
The Wolverines open Western Highlands Conference play next week, traveling Friday to Owen for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.