Last-minute score earns Polk Middle share of East Division title

Polk County Middle did so many small things well Monday. And got a big prize as a result.

Angus Weaver’s touchdown with 25 seconds remaining lifted the Wolverines to a 20-12 victory over Hendersonville Middle, earning Polk Middle a share of the Blue Ridge Conference East Division title.

The Wolverines finished with a 6-1 record, including 4-1 in East Division play, and shared the East Division title with Hendersonville. Thanks to Monday’s win, Polk County Middle will be the top seed from the East and advances to the Blue Ridge Conference championship game against Waynesville Middle.┬áThat game will be played Thursday at 5 p.m. at Utz Field.

To earn that championship shot, Polk Middle had to deliver two fourth-quarter defensive stands as well as fashion a drive for Weaver’s game-winning score.

The first defensive stand came early in the fourth period, when Polk stopped Hendersonville on downs, including two key pass breakups by a secondary that played well all afternoon.

The final stop gave Polk the ball on the Hendersonville 40, and the Wolverines turned to Weaver. The eighth grader carried the ball on seven of the drive’s eight plays, and Polk also benefited from a Hendersonville offsides penalty on a fourth-and-3 at the 19.

Before the play, Polk coaches called out to their offense, imploring them to not move, to give the play time. No one moved, and the offsides call moved the ball to the 14.

At that point, Weaver began operating out of a single-back formation, taking a direct snap. He finally plowed into the end zone from the 2, then added the 2-point conversion to give the Wolverines an 8-point lead.

Hendersonville (5-2, 4-1) reached the Polk 36 with nine seconds left, but a long pass downfield from there was intercepted by Polk’s Casey Beiler, clinching the win.

“This was a game of little things,” said Polk Middle head coach Ethan Edwards. “We wanted to stay on offense as much as we could. That’s a dangerous team. They get downfield fast and they score fast. We knew the best defense was our offense staying on the field.”

Polk County Middle’s Alex Tipton knocks down a Hendersonville Middle pass

Much of that offense ran through Weaver, who unofficially carried 32 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns.

“When you can give it to the same guy that much, it makes things easier,” Edwards said.

There were plenty of other standouts – Makus Simpson ran for 43 yards and a touchdown, Ethan Jackson had a key sack to end the first half, the Polk offensive line helped the Wolverines rush for more than 200 yards and the Wolverine secondary had numerous pass deflections.

“They played well,” Edwards said. “Alex Tipton was back there and he’s undersized by a foot, and he had three big pass breakups.”

Polk Middle recovered an onside kick to open the game, then drove 53 yards in nine plays to take a 6-0 lead as Simpson scored on a 4-yard run with 3:39 left in the quarter.

Hendersonville tied the game at 6-6 on the final play of the quarter, then took a 12-6 lead midway through the second. Back came the Wolverines, marching 62 yards in 10 plays, with Weaver scoring on a 2-yard run with 41 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 12.

Simpson’s sack on the final play of the half assured that the score would stay at 12-12 at the break.

Defenses ruled during much of the second half, with Polk stopping Hendersonville on a fourth-and-2 and the Bearcats forcing a turnover early in the fourth period after the Wolverines drove to the Hendersonville 12. That would set the stage for Polk’s late defensive stand and score.

“Our defense came up huge with a couple of fourth-down stops in the second half,” Edwards said. “Our running game was super strong. Guys were blocking to the whistle, guys were fighting for extra yards and protecting the football.”

Polk County Middle’s Ethan Jackson records a sack to end the first half.