Polk County certainly rode its horse Friday. The Wolverines, though, were no one-trick pony.
Angus Weaver set career highs in carries and yardage and tossed in a touchdown pass for good measure. But the sophomore had plenty of help as Polk County deligheted a Homecoming crowd with a 42-20 victory over Avery at G.M. Tennant Stadium.
The Wolverines are now 4-1, 3-0 in Western Highlands Conference play as a showdown with Mitchell awaits. The WHC co-leaders meet next Friday in Bakersville in a game that will likely decide the winner of the conference’s automatic 1A playoff berth and possibly the WHC regular-season champion.
Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis would certainly take another similar team effort. Four players scored touchdowns. Eight players caught passes. The Wolverines had a pair of interceptions and big blocks on touchdowns and it seemed someone new made a key play almost every snap.
At the center of it all was Weaver, who carried 28 times for 225 yards, scored twice and threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to Steven Chupp. That gives Weaver 616 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns in his last three games.
“He’s kinda like Secretariat,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “He’s our Triple Crown winner. Our players are real confident when they’re blocking for him. I’ll say this – Gage McSwain came in and really gave us some positive reps, and that’s important because (Weaver) can’t carry every single time.
“We’re rushing the ball well, and again, I’ll reiterate the fact that to win in this league, you’ve got to be able to do that.”
All was not rosy for the Wolverines, though, as Polk County lost senior Fiddle Deyton to an injury on the opening kickoff. The special teams ace has also developed into a solid contributor on defense this season for Polk. There was no word immediately after the game as to the extent of his injury.
A handful of big plays helped define a first half that ended with Polk leading 21-6.
Avery (2-0, 1-1) took the opening kickoff and quickly raced from its 21 to the Polk 11 as quarterback Troy Holiman hit four of his first five passes. But with the end zone in sight, Holiman’s sixth attempt found the arms of Wolverine linebacker Nate Henderson, that interception stopping the scoring threat and blunting Avery’s early momentum.
“That’s a huge play by Nate,” Ollis said. “They were having their way with us, absolutely moving it consistently on us. Above-average plays are made by above-average players, and Nate has been that kind of guy for us all year. I was glad to see him come up with a play like that in a crucial situation.”
The game still stood scoreless at the end of the first period, but as the teams changed ends of the field for the second quarter, Polk assistant head coach Jamie Thompson suggested the Wolverines try a play they’d been working on for some time.
The call delivered immediate results – Weaver took a pitch from quarterback Casey Beiler, drawing the attention of most of Avery’s defense, then stopped and fired a strike to an all-alone Chupp. The junior raced to the end zone to complete the 56-yard touchdown play, and Matias Akers’ extra point made it 7-0.
“We felt like the halfback pass was going to score,” Ollis said. “Jamie said, hey, let’s try it here, Coach. That was a huge play. I think that demoralized them a bit.”
Polk then stopped Avery on a fourth-and-4 at the Wolverine 47, then put together an eight-play drive that ended in McSwain’s four-yard touchdown plunge, that upping the Polk lead to 14-0 with 5:33 left in the half.
The Vikings marched to the Polk 4 on their next drive, but failed to convert on fourth-and-goal fom the 6. A Polk fumble, though, set up a Holiman four-yard run that cut the Wolverines’ lead to 14-6 with 1:30 remaining.
Cue two more big plays.
Following a long McSwain kickoff return, Beiler rolled to his right and found Jacob Knighton alone in the Avery secondary. Knighton snared the pass, got a key block from Tyler Staley that cleared a would-be tackler and sprinted to the end zone, the 58-yard touchdown and Akers’ point after pushing the Wolverine lead to 21-6 with 1:09 left in the half.
With Avery trying to get a quick score before the break, Polk freshman Keaundrae Green picked off a Holiman pass near midfield to prevent the Vikings from doing any more damage.
Polk firmly took command of the game midway through the third period, driving 86 yards in nine plays. Weaver had runs of 16 and 12 yards, Henderson had a key fumble recovery to allow Polk to keep possession and Beiler ended the drive with a 27-yard touchdown to Elijah Barnes, his pump fake freezing Avery’s secondary and freeing Barnes for an easy catch at the goal line.
Weaver scored on a nine-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, upping the lead to 35-6, and added a three-yard touchdown plunge between two Avery scores as Polk substituted liberally on defense throughout the fourth period.
The Wolverines racked up 474 yards of total offense, with Beiler hitting 10-of-17 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns and McSwain adding 67 yards rushing to Weaver’s total.
Holiman finished the night 21-of-38 for 221 yards, with Chad Giarrusso rushing for 136 yards, but more than a third of Avery’s total offense came on two fourth-quarter drives with the outcome largely decided.
“Again, great team defense,” Ollis said. “Here’s the thing that (Avery head coach) Mac Bryan said after the game: Coach, your kids pursue the ball as well as any time I’ve seen on film this year. That means a lot coming from him because he’s a good football coach and he noticed it. We get around the ball and good things happening on defense when you swarm on the football.
“It’s good to be undefeated in the conference. That’s where you want to be.”