Whenever Polk County’s and Hendersonville’s football teams meet, it’s usually a game that goes down to the wire.
That was the case Saturday for the pandemic-delayed 2020 season opener at Dietz Field, as Polk had a chance to tie the game in the closing minutes, but the Bearcats held on for the thrilling 35-27 win.
As Wolverine quarterback Casey Beiler dropped back to pass at the Polk 32, he was met by the arms of Bearcat lineman Ellis Hunter, who was surrounded by his teammates after the big sack.
The limited number of fans who were allowed in the gates erupted after Hunter’s sack.
“The defense didn’t play as good in the first half, but in the second half, they really stepped up,” HHS coach Jim Sosebee said. “It was a great way to open the season.”
In a total team effort, the offense put up big numbers, with quarterback Gavin Gosnell going 19-for-37 for 235 yards, and his two main targets were Tristan Peterkin, who had seven catches for 127 yards and also a rushing touchdown and Dorian Allen, who had six catches for 68 yards.
Jayleon Gaines led the ground game with 18 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown.
JaJuan Givens also came up big on special teams with a tackle of the Polk punter in the end zone for a safety. Later in the game he made another tackle of the punter to give the ball back to Hendersonville deep in Polk territory.
“To be honest, I felt I was prepared to get that safety,” Givens said. “When the snap went over his head, I just felt like I was going to get him in the end zone. It felt great. When I got him the second time, I just felt confident I was going to get him again.”
On defense, linebacker Clay Sawtelle had two big stops in the second half against Polk’s Angus Weaver, who finished the game with 14 carries for 39 yards.
“We just knew we had to wrap him up. He’s a big back,” Sawtelle said. “After we didn’t play that well in the first half, we knew we had to step up in the second half.”
Hendersonville kicker Cooper King, who is also a standout on the boys soccer team, had two field goals.
It was a see-saw affair that saw Polk take the lead after Gage McSwain had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Moments later, Beiler hit Weaver for a 30-yard touchdown to push the lead to 27-19.
Peterkin’s score from 17 yards out just before the end of the third quarter cut the lead to 27-25. After an HHS interception, the Bearcats drove down the field and went ahead for good on Gosnell’s five-yard touchdown run.
King added the final score on a 34-yard field goal.
“It’s always a good game when we come to play Hendersonville,” Polk coach Bruce Ollis said. “It was a good one today, too. We made some good plays … we just have to execute on defense better, and we will.”
“Polk’s got a great team,” Sosebee said. “They’re always well-coached. They’re going to win a lot of games.”