Lawson Carter prepares to deliver one of his three touchdown passes in Thursday's win over Macon Middle.

Big plays prove winning formula for Polk Middle in opener

It proved to be the best offense Polk County Middle never planned.

The Wolverines hit on a handful of big plays Thursday, powering Polk Middle to a 30-14 victory over Macon Middle in the season opener for both teams at Utz Field.

All four Polk County touchdowns came on plays of 50 or more yards, with three of those touchdown passes by Lawson Carter. Unofficially, Carter finished 5-for-5 for 206 yards, with Antonio Simpson catching four passes for 135 yards and two scores.

It was quite a start for the defending Blue Ridge Conference champions.

“It was a great way to start the season,” said Polk Middle head coach Ethan Edwards. “It wasn’t beautiful, but when we needed a big play, we got it.”

Photo Gallery: Polk Middle vs. Macon Middle

The big plays came in all phases of the game. Trailing 22-6 early in the fourth period, Macon Middle put together a scoring drive, capped by Gabe Nickerson’s 1-yard touchdown run, and added a 2-point conversion to make it a 22-14 margin with 4:03 left in the game.

The Panthers then attempted an onsides kick, but Jayce Edwards snared the bouncing kick and dropped to the turf, giving Polk the ball near midfield. Karlen McIntyre then broke through the Macon defense for a 51-yard scoring scamper to seal the Wolverines’ win.

Before that run, Polk’s offense found unexpected success through the air. Carter and Simpson teamed on two first-half touchdowns, both coming on routes where Simpson slanted in to catch Carter’s pass, then broke free from defenders and raced to the end zone. One score covered 53 yards, the other 51, and they gave the Wolverines a 16-0 lead that stood at the break.

Polk Middle’s Hayden Toney hauls down a Macon Middle runner during a key 2-point attempt in the second half of Thursday’s game.

Nickerson scored on a long touchdown run midway through the third quarter, but Hayden Toney stuffed the 2-point attempt, keeping Polk’s lead at 16-6. On its next possession, the Wolverines faced a third-and-nine at their 27 when Carter lofted a perfect pass down the right seam to McIntyre, who caught the pass in stride and outran a Macon defender for a 73-yard scoring play and a 22-6 Polk lead.

“That was not our game plan,” Edwards said of the long passes. “We planned to run a ball-control offense, and we did run the ball well. Sometimes we needed a big play and we got it.

“I’m very pleased with the way we ran the ball inside. Their defensive line is great.”

Polk Middle is back in action next Thursday, traveling to Madison Middle for a 5 p.m. clash.