Thursday proved a special day for Waynesville Middle School’s football team in more ways than one.
The Mountaineers took advantage of a series of special teams plays to build a 26-6 first-quarter lead, then took advantage of another key special teams break in the third quarter to pull away for a 48-20 win over Polk County Middle School on a steamy afternoon at Polk Middle.
Waynesville (1-0) recovered three consecutive onside kick attempts in the first quarter, then turned those recoveries into three touchdowns on drives of two, two and one play. The Mountaineers had more than 100 yards rushing in the first quarter of the rematch of last season’s Blue Ridge Middle School Conference championship game.
But Polk Middle (0-1) began to fight back. The Wolverines put together a solid drive to open the second period, then faced a fourth-and-15 at the Waynesville 35. Head coach Billy Alm called for a hook-and-lateral play, and the Wolverines executed it to perfection, with Elijah Sutton taking the lateral down the sideline for a touchdown and a 26-12 deficit that stood as the halftime score.
Polk Middle scored quickly in the second half, Sutton breaking free for a 53-yard touchdown scamper. Avery Edwards completed a 2-point conversion attempt to Qualon Sutton, and the Wolverines were within a touchdown at 26-20. Polk Middle then stopped Waynesville’s next drive and forced the Mountaineers to punt. But instead of getting the ball back for a potential go-ahead score, Polk County was whistled for having 12 men on the field, allowing Waynesville to retain possession. The Mountaineers then scored on a Brandon Cullins quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the 1 for a 32-20 lead and added two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the final margin.
“That was an honest mistake by me, not counting the number of guys out there,” said Polk Middle head coach Billy Alm of the punt play. “We had so many things to work on this preseason, and we didn’t do any special teams in our scrimmage. We worked on them some and thought we were OK.
“We’ve got a lot to work on. I just didn’t have them ready to play today.”
Waynesville scored on its opening drive for a 6-0 lead, but Polk Middle came right back. Taking over at the Waynesvilel 43, Elijah Sutton broke free for a 23-yard run, Bryson Seay rumbled for 11 yards, Sutton broke free for 22 more and Seay capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge, evening the score at 6-6.
But Waynesville’s Spencer Evans answered with a 66-yard touchdown run on the Mountaineers’ next drive, and then Waynesville, which tried an onside kick after nearly every score, put together its string of recoveries to take the upper hand.
“We had some good offensive drives. The first drive was good and so was the second drive,” Alm said. “We had some injuries, and when some of your top athletes go out it hurts.
“We’re going to be OK.”