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Wolverines battle, but Eagles too much to ground in 40-8 setback

National Christian Academy quickly made a statement Friday about the quality of its football team. Polk County offered a pretty good response about the mettle of its squad.

National Christian Academy quickly made a statement Friday about the quality of its football team.

Polk County offered a pretty good response about the mettle of its squad.

The Maryland-based Eagles exploded for 34 points in less than 12 minutes of the first half, fueling a 40-8 victory over the Wolverines in their home opener at G.M. Tennant Stadium.

Size, speed, athleticism – National Christian displayed all of that in building a 34-8 lead by the midpoint of the second quarter. The Eagles often lined up in a five-receiver set, stayed in a spread look the entire game and never huddled, looking to keep the game at a high tempo.

Polk County, which scored on its opening drive and led 8-0, didn’t aid its cause with four turnovers, two of those helping spark the Eagles’ early surge. But the Wolverines (1-1) remained undeterred, holding National Christian to a lone score the rest of the night and battling until the final whistle.

“Quality, quality football team,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “I think we put a little fear in them that first drive, we took the ball right down there and scored.

“But we didn’t get off the field much defensively in the first half, and you throw four turnovers on top of that and it makes for pretty ugly football from our perspective.”

The Wolverines took possession to open the game at their 47 and quickly landed the first blow of the evening, with Mitchell Yoder powering into the middle of the NCA defense, spinning away from two would-be tacklers, bouncing back outside and racing to the end zone for a 23-yard scoring run. Ryan Heider’s grab of a pass on the point after gave the Wolverines a quick 8-0 lead.

NCA wasted no time in responding, driving downfield on the passing of quarterback Jalen Lea and running of Myles Miree. Lea capped the drive with a 9-yard scoring toss to Ric Alston, and 5-6 speedster Jaylen Johnson scooted around right end for the 2-point conversion to even the game at 8-8 with 7:03 still remaining in the first quarter.

The Wolveirnes fumbled on their next drive at the NCA 24, and Lea and Alston immediately teamed again on the next play, Alston catching a pass in the middle of the field and fighting off Polk County defenders to stretch for the end zone. That score gave the Eagles a 14-8 edge with 6:34 left.

Polk’s next series also ended in a turnover on the second play as NCA’s Jalen Fant picked off a screen attempt and raced 37 yards for the Eagles’ second score in less than a minute, giving NCA a 20-8 lead.

The Wolverines failed to convert a fourth-and-8 on the NCA 46 on their next possession, setting up a six-play, 54-yard NCA scoring drive. Lea capped that with a 15-yard touchdown toss to Damion Farmer, then added a 2-point conversion to Alston for a 28-8 lead.

NCA added another score on its next drive as Donovan Cole tossed a 14-yard scoring strike to Martino Dennis. Jason Mackall then closed the scoring in the third quarter with a 9-yard run.

Polk County, meanwhile, found running room tough to find all night against an NCA defense led by standout sophomores Terion Sugick, Monkell Goodwine and Banham Taylor. The Wolverines finished with 109 total yards, 103 of those on the ground.

“I felt good about our effort. I felt we played hard. Sometimes our hard just wasn’t good enough,” Ollis said. “But I’ll jump in the same foxhole with these guys any time I can. We’ll learn from this and hopfully be able to check one off in the lefthand column.

“We didn’t tackle very well, but a lot of that had to do with their athleticism. (Johnson), I don’t know if that had been a flag football game sometimes if we would have gotten him down. He was tough to handle. And their big offensive line was pretty impressive. But we were in there scrapping and playing hard the entire time and I think that’s a positive thing. Our kids never backed down.”

Bryson Seay rushed for 44 yards to lead Polk County, with Yoder adding 41 yards on nine carries in his first start as senior Elijah Sutton will miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury. Yoder also added an interception.

Lea finished 9-of-12 for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Mackall had 120 yards on five carries to lead the NCA rushing attack as the Eagles finished with 429 total yards.

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