Wolverines explode in second half, run past Owen in WHC opener

Polk County's Elijah Sutton

It took Polk County’s offense some time Friday night to finally find the end zone.

Once the Wolverines did, they kept going back. Often. Quickly.

Elijah Sutton had much to do with that.

Sutton rushed for a career-high 227 yards and three touchdowns and Polk County scored four times in a span of 11 minutes en route to a 28-14 win over Owen in the Western Highlands Conference opener for both teams in Swannanoa.

Polk County (5-2, 1-0) dominated play throughout the night, but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard at halftime or even midway through the third quarter. Neither did Owen (0-6, 0-1), though, with the teams mired in a scoreless tie to that point.

Then Sutton and the Wolverine offense roared to life.

A 10-play, 66-yard drive began the surge. Polk County converted a fourth-and-1 at the Owen 45, then got a key 21-yard run from Sutton before a heads-up play by Lukas Tipton led to the first score, Tipton snaring a Wolverine fumble in mid-air and barreling into the end zone. Luis Hernandez drilled the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 3:45 left in the third quarter.

Owen went three-and-out on its next drive, with Polk taking over at the Warhorse 38 after a punt. The Wolverines needed one play to score, with quarterback Dillon Overholt perfectly running the option to his left, pitching to Sutton at the last possible moment. Sutton raced past a pair of Owen defenders and easily scored, and Hernandez’ extra point made it 14-0 with 1:45 left in the quarter.

Trying to stay in the game and ignite an offensive spark, Owen coach Nathan Padgett opted not to punt on fourth-and-1 at his 39 on the Warhorses’ next drove. But running back Kristian Michels barely received the handoff before Polk’s Hayden Shumate knifed through the Warhorse line and grabbed Michels. Three Wolverines followed, dropping Michels at the 35 and giving the ball back to Polk.

Sutton rambled for five yards on first down, the final play of the third quarter, then ripped off a 30-yard touchdown jaunt on the next play, starting up the middle, cutting to his left, then cutting to his left again and outrunning a defender to the end zone. Hernandez again was perfect to make it 21-0 with 11:53 left in the game.

And give the Wolverines three touchdowns in a four-play span.

Polk County’s Trey Thompson sacks Owen quarterback Audun Meyers during Friday’s game (Jane Ollis photo).

Owen fought back, putting together one of its best drives of the night, scoring with 7:36 remaining as Ty Davidson outjumped a pair of Polk defenders to snare Audun Meyers’ 19-yard pass in the end zone. Caleb Wells added the extra point to cut the Polk lead to 21-7.

But the Wolverines made certain that would be the last hope for Owen’s Homecoming crowd – Polk’s fourth straight Homecoming game, with one more to go next week at Avery. An unsucessful onside kick attempt gave Polk possession at the Owen 47. An Overholt 3-yard gain on fourth-and-1 at the 38 kept the drive alive, and a 25-yard toss to Markell Lipscomb took the Wolverines to the 3, where Sutton raced untouched around right end to score with 4:40 remaining. Hernandez added the extra point for a 28-7 lead.

Meyers and Davidson teamed up for a 30-yard scoring toss with 1:23 left to account for the final margin.

Polk had two scoring opportunities in the first half, twice moving inside the Owen 15. But the Warhorses blocked one Hernandez field goal attempt, and another sailed just wide. Owen also missed a field goal on the final play of the half, the Warhorses’ only scoring opportunity in the first two quarters.

Led by Sutton’s big night, coming on 18 carries, Polk rushed for 342 yards in the win, with Seay adding 62 yards on seven carries. Meyers finished 10-of-21 for 145 yards to lead the Owen offense.