Polk County Middle's Styler Blackwell had three touchdowns in Thursday's win

Defensive gem sparks Polk Middle as Wolverines top Blue Devils

After another sluggish first half, Polk County Middle needed a spark Thursday afternoon.

Sawyer Huff provided it.

Huff pushed into the Brevard Middle backfield, tipped away the pitch from quarterback to running back, scooped up the loose ball and raced 43 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. The Wolverines added two more scores in the second half en route to a 30-14 victory at Utz Field.

Much like last week’s season-opening win at Bethel, Polk Middle (2-0) struggled in the opening two quarters, committing three turnovers on offense and allowing Brevard to score on a long touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.

But the second half unfolded much differently, thanks in part to Huff’s defensive gem just 20 seconds into the third period. The tall, lanky eighth grader crashed into the backfield to bat the attempted pitch, then raced untouched to the end zone after the recovery.

“That was all instinct. That wasn’t coaching,” said Polk Middle head coach Ethan Edwards of Huff’s play. “He saw the pitch was a high pitch, he came through and batted it down and picked it up. That was beautiful.”

Polk’s Simon Moore recovered a Brevard fumble at midfield on the next series, setting up a drive culminated by Styler Blackwell’s 11-yard touchdown run. Blackwell also added the 2-point conversion to give the Wolverines a 22-6 advantage.

Polk Middle’s Simon Moore celebrates after recovering a Brevard fumble in the second half of Thursday’s win

Polk faced a bit of adversity early in the fourth quarter as Brevard scored on an interception return and converted the 2-point conversion attempt to slice the Wolverines’ lead to 22-14. But Blackwell broke free for a long run to move Polk to the Brevard 8, then covered the rest of the distance for his third touchdown of the day, scoring with 2:48 remaining. Huff added the 2-point conversion to boost the lead back to 16 points and end Brevard’s comeback hopes.

Blackwell also had two fumble recoveries to go with his three rushing touchdowns.

“Really proud of Styler for how hard he ran,” Edwards said. “He kind of got his bell rung there one time, and he came back and asked for the ball. That’s when he made the long run.

“I’m proud of Zach (McCraw). He struggled in the first half holding onto the ball, but he kept his resolve, kept fighting and working hard and he still had a positive game.”

Blackwell’s first score came on an 18-yard run late in the first quarter. Brevard answered early in the second, and then the teams swapped turnovers, each committing two before the half.

“Right now we’re struggling in the first quarter and struggling in the second quarter,” Edwards said. “We did the same thing at Bethel last week. We’ve got to correct that, but we’re kind of thin, and so for them to step it up in the second half, I’m proud of them for that.

“Our defensive front, I thought, played really well against a bigger offensive line. We had some cramping issues, and we had some guys step in and fill the roles and didn’t hurt us. I was really proud of that.”

Polk Middle will start a three-week road trip next Thursday, traveling to Apple Valley Middle for a 5 p.m. kickoff.