Homecoming dance: Wolverines roar past Avery
Mitchell Yoder’s three touchdowns helped spur Polk County to a runaway 59-27 Western Highlands Conference victory over Avery on Homecoming night at G.M. Tennant Stadium
A rainbow of a fourth-down pass falling toward himself and two Avery defenders, Mitchell Yoder’s first thought didn’t actually involve catching the ball.
“I was trying to get it away from them, just hoping they wouldn’t pick it off,” Yoder said. “It just tipped up and I went for it again.”
Yoder’s tip, catch and run turned a fourth-and-seven into seven points at a crucial moment, helping spur Polk County to a runaway 59-27 Western Highlands Conference victory over Avery on Homecoming night at G.M. Tennant Stadium.
The celebratory routine that Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis broke out in the team’s postgame huddle might not have qualified as a Homecoming dance, but still served the purpose for a Wolverine team snapping a six-game losing streak.
“Our mantra for this week was ‘expect to win.’ We’ve had times this season where we had leads on people and didn’t finish,” Ollis said. “We finished tonight.”
Polk County (2-6, 1-1) unofficially set school single-game records for rushing yards (437) and total yards (588) as well as posting its highest point total since 2013. Yoder had much to do with that.
The senior back rushed for a career-high 221 yards on 15 carries and scored three times. Two of those were momentum killers for Avery (2-6, 1-1).
The Vikings rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to tie the game, but again trailed 28-14 late in the second period. when Polk opted to try to convert a fourth-and-7 at the Avery 48. Quarterback Avery Edwards sailed that high pass downfield toward Yoder, who leapt, tipped the ball with two hands, caught it as he landed and raced into the end zone.
Instead of having the ball at midfield and a chance to cut the Polk lead to one score, Avery trailed by three after Matias Akers’ extra point made it 35-14 with 2:37 left in the half.
The Vikings – who finished with 427 yards of total offense as both teams combined for more than 1,000 yards – did answer just before the break, with Eli Hayes catching a three-yard pass with 20 seconds remaining to make it 35-21.
Avery then had a golden opportunity early in the third period to slice the lead further as Polk County fumbled at its 13. But the Vikings were pushed back and eventually punted, giving Polk the ball at its 18. On first down, Yoder weaved his way through the Avery defense for an 82-yard touchdown sprint, putting the Wolverines up 42-21 with 6:52 left in the third period.
“Coach wanted us to focus more and be locked in, and I think we were locked in, a bunch,” Yoder said. “It’s better knowing we finished a game once, all the way through. That feels good.”
The points kept coming – a Cameron Blackwell 2-yard scoring run, a Ryan Heider 2-yard reception, a Matias Akers 23-yard field goal – as the Wolverines made certain Avery’s explosive offense wouldn’t rally.
“That’s the best second half we’ve played all year,” Ollis said. “That’s the first time we’ve finished a football game.
“Mitchell’s catch was very similar to the play we didn’t make last week against Owen (a late score before halftime), but it went the reverse way. That play created some momentum at halftime for us.”
Polk County opened the game with all the momentum, scoring on its first two drives on a Steven Chupp 3-yard run and an Edwards 6-yard scamper to grab a 14-0 lead with 4:57 left in the first period.
Avery surged back, with quarterback Troy Hoilman tossing a 29-yard scoring pass to Lucas Andrews and Sam McCollum scoring on a 1-yard plunge after Polk failed to convert a fourth-and-5 at its 47, with the Vikings adding a 2-point conversion following McCollum’s score to tie the game at 14.
The teams swapped interceptions, with Polk defensive lineman Logan Conner picking off an Avery screen pass to give the Wolverines the ball at the Viking 28. Yoder scored his first touchdown on the next play, driving over the left side, then cutting outside and racing to the end zone. Akers’ point after made it 21-14 with 6:49 remaining.
Another Polk interception, this one by Edwards, set the Wolverines up at the Viking 13, and Edwards scored one play later on an 8-yard run, putting Polk County up 28-14 with 5:32 left in the half.
Edwards finished 7-of-11 for 148 yards passing and two scores and also ran for 44 yards and two scores. Lukas Tipton adding 61 yards rushing on six carries. Heider had four receptions for 78 yards.
Hoilman passed for 241 yards on 19-of-37 attempts with two touchdowns to lead Avery, with McCollum rushing for 156 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns.
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