On the road, second overtime. One defensive play away from a division championship. One defensive play away from an undefeated season.
Facing that situation Thursday, Polk Middle School head coach Billy Alm decided on a simple strategy as Hendersonville Middle lined up for a game-tying 2-point conversion attempt – throw everything he had at the Bearcats’ backfield and hope Hendersonville wouldn’t attempt a pass.
Polk Middle School stopped Hendersonville Middle’s game-tying attempt to seal the first undefeated regular season in school history, the play earning the Wolverines a 28-26 victory in a showdown of undefeated Blue Ridge Middle School Conference squads. Polk Middle captured the Blue Ridge Eastern Division title with the win and will travel to Waynesville Middle School next Thursday to vie for the school’s first conference championship.
Having already stopped a 2-point try in the first overtime with the score tied at 20, Polk Middle knew a similar stop in the second overtime would mean a win after the Wolverines scored on a D.J. Twitty pass to Dillion Overholt and converted the 2-point try on their possession, Arnie Twitty making a great catch on the play. Once Hendersonville Middle scored and lined up for its 2-point try, Alm and his coaching staff knew what their next move would be.
“We expected them to run the ball,” Alm said. “We blitzed everybody we could blitz. We filled some gaps, got the line into the backfield and were there as their guy handed the ball off.
“I guess it was kind of a gutsy call, because if they had passed the ball, we probably would still be playing.”
Polk Middle opened a 14-0 halftime lead before Hendersonville cut the margin to 14-6 early in the fourth quarter, then recovered an onside kick and scored again. The Bearcats converted the 2-point try on that occasion, evening the score at 14 and setting the stage for the overtime dramatics.
“We had our ups and downs,” Alm said. “We were up 14-0 in the game before they scored and then got the onside kick and scored again. It was kind of gut wrenching.”
The Wolverines were without the services of starting quarterback Peyton Kemmerlin, sidelined by a knee injury. D.J. Twitty moved to quarterback and helped guide the Wolverines to the win, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another.
“The guys played their hearts out tonight,” Alm said. “Even when things went bad there for a time, they kept their heads up and kept fighting. This was definitely a team effort.”
And it’s a team that can now celebrate a spotless 7-0 record, only the third time any boys athletic team at the school has completed an unbeaten regular season. The Polk Middle girls volleyball squad also finished undefeated this year, the first time any PCMS girls team has accomplished that feat. The division title is the second for the football program.
“It’s been a lot of pressure for the kids and for the coaches,” Alm said. “But we are feeding off that. We’ve just tried to keep the team on an even keel.”