LEDGER – Polk County threw a new wrinkle or two at Mitchell on Friday, but two things still remained constant from the teams’ first meeting three weeks ago.
The Wolverines couldn’t stop Noah Pitman from getting into the end zone nor find a way to get there themselves.
Mitchell brought Polk County’s season to a close, handing the Wolverines a 28-0 setback in the second round of the state 1AA playoffs at Memorial Stadium.
The Mountaineers (11-1), the second seed in the 1AA West bracket, earned a third-round home game next week against Swain. Polk County ended what in time will be remembered as a successful season at 9-4.
The final score nearly mirrored Mitchell’s 33-0 regular-season win at Polk on Nov. 1, a game in which Pitman rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns. This time around the senior quarterback did much of his damage via the pass, throwing for 206 yards and a touchdown, including a 7-of-8 effort for 123 yards in the first half. He also rushed for 81 yards and two scores.
“You gotta give them a lot of credit. They’re a quality football team,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis.
A series of events in the final half of the first quarter and start of the second spoiled Polk County’s hopes for finding early success, something the Wolverines felt they needed in order to have a shot at a third-round playoff game for the second straight year.
The Wolverine defense had Mitchell mired in a 4th-and 11 on its opening drive, but Pitman dropped back to pass, then took off around right end and scrambled 32 yards to the end zone. Elliot Kadens added the point after and the Mountaineers had a 7-0 advantage with 6:54 left in the first period.
Part of Polk County’s game plan lay rooted in keeping Mitchell’s offense off the field, and the Wolverines certainly did that to near-perfection with their second possession. Polk took the kickoff following Pitman’s run and held the ball for 16 plays and 9:54 of clock time. During the drive the Wolverines lined up quarterback Bryce Jergenson in the shotgun for the first time this season. They ran the play clock down as much as possible before snapping the ball. They converted a pair of third downs to keep the drive moving.
The Wolverines did everything, in fact, except score. A sack of Jergenson on third-and-8 at the Mitchell 13 led to a Matias Akers’ 39-yard field goal attempt that sailed just wide, keeping the Mountaineers in the lead.
“That’s exactly what we talked about with our players as how we had to win the game, to keep the ball away from their explosive offense and grind the clock down,” Ollis said. “I probably should have been looking at it from the standpoint that it’s (3rd-and-8), we got two plays to make (eight) yards, and I tried to make it in one and we took a big loss.”
Mitchell responded with an 80-yard drive in eight plays to score on a Pitman 1-yard run, then traveled 72 yards in four plays after a Polk punt for another score with 52 seconds left in the half. Pitman hit three straight passes to take the Mountaineers to the 2, where Tanner Duncan plunged into the end zone for a 21-0 halftime advantage.
Polk County’s chance of a second-half rally took a hit early in the third period as Jergenson was sacked and knocked out of the game. Freshman Casey Beiler stepped into action and hit his first two passes before finishing 3-of-9 for 18 yards while rushing for 10 yards on four carries.
Mitchell added its final touchdown late in the third period on a Pitman 18-yard pass to Logan Hudgins, with many of the Mountaineer starters then sitting out the final period.
Once the final whistle sounded, amid tears and hugs, Polk’s seniors gathered for a final photo, many of those players part of a group that won at least one playoff game in each of the past three seasons and delivered a nine-win campaign in 2019.
“Boy, what a great group of seniors,” Ollis said. “A lot of great football players, but even more than that, a lot of good young men. We’ve enjoyed coaching them.”
Polk County 0 0 0 0 — 0
Mitchell 7 14 7 0 — 28
M – Noah Pitman 32 run (Elliot Kadens kick), 6:54
M – Noah Pitman 1 run (Kadens kick), 5:54
M – Tanner Duncan 2 run (Kadens kick), :52
M – Logan Hudgins 18 pass from Noah Pitman (Kadens kick), :23
PC – Angus Weaver 10-46, Lukas Tipton 5-19, Casey Beiler 4-10, Bryce Jergenson 9-9, Nate Henderson 3-7, Gage McSwain 3-2, Cameron Blackwell 1-0. M – Noah Pitman 8-81, Carter Hoyle 4-40, Tanner Duncan 6-13, Logan Hudgins 2-6, Ty Sparks 1-(-2), Garrison Phillips, 1-(-2), Tyler McKinney 1-(-4).
PC – Casey Beiler 3-9-18-1, Bryce Jergenson 3-5-17-0. M – Noah Pitman 10-14-206-0, Garrison Phillips 0-2-0-0.
PC – Lukas Tipton 2-23, Jordan Bishop 2-5, Chase McSwain 1-4, Gage McSwain 1-3. M – Ty Pitman 3-61, Garrison Phillips 3-60, Tyler McKinney 2-50, Logan Hudgins 1-8, Caius Peterson 1-17.