Close. So, so close.
Likely that’s all anyone on Polk County Middle’s sideline could think late Thursday afternoon, the Wolverines left just a few yards shy of a miraculous finish in a 15-9 loss to Apple Valley at Polk Middle.
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Trailing by six after Apple Valley scored with four minutes left in the game, Polk Middle thought its chance at a tying touchdown had slipped away near midfield when the Wolverines fumbled the ball with 3:08 left in the game. But a solid defensive stand forced Apple Valley (1-3) to punt, giving Polk Middle the ball on its 38 with 1:04 remaining.
Qualon Sutton’s 17-yard run on first down moved Polk Middle into Apple Valley territory, but a pair of illegal procedure penalties slowed the drive. The Wolverines (2-2) were eventually left facing fourth-and-16 on their 49 with seven seconds left in the game.
As time ticked away, Polk quarterback Shane Parris fired a long pass down the middle of the field, finding Lukas Tipton open near the 20. Tipton made the catch and headed for the end zone, only to be brought down at the Apple Valley 9 just as the final horn sounded.
A defensive battle early on turned in Polk County Middle’s direction with a bit of history as Ava Marino kicked a field goal to give Polk a 3-0 lead. It may well be the first field goal in school history; former head coach Billy Alm said he couldn’t remember a successful one.
That lead held until the final seconds of the first half, when Apple Valley used a reverse to score its first touchdown, giving the Knights a 7-0 lead at the break.
Apple Valley scored on its first play of the second half, but a penalty negated the score, and Sutton turned that mistake into more good fortune for Polk, intercepting a pass at midfield. The Wolverines then marched the 50 yards to the end zone – converting a fourth-and-three when Parris drew Apple Valley offsides – and took the lead on Coby Lee’s 14-yard touchdown run, giving the Wolverines a 9-7 advantage with 10 seconds left in the third period.
But Apple Valley returned the ensuing kickoff to the Polk 36, converted fourth-and-4 at the Polk 10 and then scored the game-winner.
Polk Middle is back at home next Thursday, hosting Flat Rock at 5 p.m.