DOBSON – Polk County’s season came to an end here Friday night in perhaps the most unlikely, unlucky and heartbreaking of finishes.
In total, Surry Central led this first-round state 2A playoff game for exactly 1.3 seconds. Unfortunately for Polk County, those were the final 1.3 seconds, a small but excruciating blip in time made possible by the 71-yard touchdown play the Eagles engineered to claim a 28-21 victory over the Wolverines.
Thus Surry Central (11-1), enjoying one of the best seasons in school history, will live to fight another day, hosting Hendersonville in next week’s second round.
Polk County ends its final season as a 2A school, at least for the next four years, at 5-7 and still looking for its first road playoff win since 2000. The Wolverines nearly, so nearly, snapped that streak.
Polk County took a 15-0 lead in the first half and maintained that lead until 3:21 remained in the game, when Riley Dockery caught a 14-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-13 and Jed Kidd snared a 2-point conversion to tie the score.
Undeterred, Polk County took possession of the ensuing kickoff at its 20 and began to drive. A 13-yard pass from Dillon Overholt to Chase Bishop, an 11-yard pass from Overholt to Jaymes Wingo and a pass interference penalty helped move Polk to the Surry 28 with 58 seconds left.
Two incompletions and an Overholt run left Polk facing 4th-and-3 at the 21. After a timeout, Overholt, lined up in the Wolverines’ special fourth-down formation with players spread to all sides of the field, was buried in the backfield on the play, giving Surry the ball with 26 seconds left.
One play later, Surry quarterback Chandler Johnson took the second-down snap, rolled to his left, then retreated, then turned back to his right, all while trying to avoid Polk County pass rushers. He finally stopped and fired a long pass downfield to Kidd, who had slipped behind Polk County’s secondary. Kidd hauled in the pass and made a beeline for the end zone, racing there untouched.
Polk County players fell to their knees around the field. Surry’s bench and fans erupted in delirium.
And why not after almost 48 minutes in which Polk County had the upper hand for almost all of it. The Wolverines took the opening kickoff and drove to the Surry 14 before a holding penalty stymied that drive. Polk forced a three-and-out on Surry’s first possession, then drove 49 yards in nine plays, scoring with two minutes left in the first period on a 24-yard pass from Overholt to Dillon Knighton. Overholt tossed a pass to Wingo for the 2-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Following a Surry punt, Polk County’s offense went to work once more, marching 80 yards in nine plays. A 31-yard catch-and-run by Josh Chupp and a 16-yard Wingo scramble keyed the drive, which ended with Elijah Sutton’s 6-yard touchdown scamper around left end. Wyatt Derkach drilled the extra point for a 15-0 lead with 6:10 left in the half.
Surry again had to punt on its next possession, setting up an early turning point in the game. On first-and-10 from the 20, Polk County fumbled, with Surry recovering at the Wolverine 8-yard line. On first down Johnson tossed a swing pass to Noah Wilmoth, who plowed into the end zone. Just like that, the Eagles were back in it and trailed 15-7 with 3:59 left in the half.
The Eagles made it 15-13 midway through the third period on a 52-yard pass play from Johnston to Martin Palacios, the Wolverines stopping Surry’s 2-point conversion attempt, and the score stayed way until the fourth period.
Taking over at the 40-yard line with 9:17 left, the Wolverines soon moved into the red zone thanks to Knighton’s 34-yard carry to the Surry 1. Overholt snuck into the end zone one play later, but Palacios blocked the ensuing extra point, leaving Polk’s margin at 21-13 with 6:10 remaining and keeping the Eagles needing one touchdown (plus a 2-point conversion) rather than two scores.
That touchdown came quickly. Surry got good field position on the kickoff and began to drive, with a 29-yard pass to Palacios taking the Eagles to the Polk 11 before the Wolverine defense stiffened, leaving Surry a 4th-and-13 at the Polk 14. Johnson found Dockery at the goal line for his score with 3:21 left, setting the stage for the frantic finish.
Polk County ran 81 plays to Surry Central’s 46 and outgained the Eagles 381-313. Overholt finished 10-for-20 for 148 yards and a touchdown and carried 26 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. Knighton had three catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson threw for 197 yards and four touchdowns on 10-of-18 attempts.