So close. So agonizingly close.
A few yards here and there and Polk County Middle would have walked off Utz Field Thursday with its first win of the season safely in hand. Instead, the Wolverines suffered a tough 16-14 setback to Flat Rock in a matchup of Blue Ridge Conference squads.
A matchup that could, easily, have gone the Wolverines’ way.
Polk Middle put together its best effort of the season. You could see the Wolverines’ confidence growing with each snap – take the second-half play by Dre Thompson as an example, Thompson throwing aside a blocker on a screen play and then tackling the receiver in the backfield.
Down 16-14 at halftime, the Wolverines stopped the Eagles on a fourth-down try on the opening possession of the third quarter. Polk took over and began to grind out a drive toward a go-ahead touchdown.
The Wolverines faced a fourth-and-10 at the Flat Rock 30, but Brody Wilkins kept the march going with a fullback option pass to Hollis Williams at the 11 with 5:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. There, though, a fumble pushed Polk back to the 25.
A face mask penalty on the Eagles left Polk with third-and-8 at the 9, but that would be as close as the Wolverines would get to the end zone. A fourth-down pass intended for Sam Rhein at the goal line was intercepted with 2:38 remaining, and the Eagles converted a third-and-3 at the 15 to seal the victory.
Flat Rock struck early and took an 8-0 lead, but the Wolverines responded and scored in the final minute of the first quarter on a Wilkins 14-yard run through the heart of the Eagles’ defense. The 2-point conversion, though, failed – that stop ultimately proved the deciding margin in the game.
Polk Middle then scored again moments later as Williams picked off a Flat Rock pass near midfield and raced past the Eagles’ bench, sailing untouched into the end zone for the go-ahead score. Williams also added the 2-point conversion to give Polk a 14-8 edge with 7:23 left in the half.
The Eagles answered with a 36-yard touchdown pass with 3:46 remaining in the half, and also crucially added the 2-point conversion to take the 16-14 advantage.
Polk Middle’s only offensive possession in the second half would be the lengthy drive that ended with the goal-line interception.
The Wolverines will host Rugby next Thursday at 5 p.m. for their final home game of the regular season.