Strong winds whipped Thursday through G.M. Tennant Stadium – much like Karlen McEntyre raced through Smoky Mountain Middle’s defense.
McEntyre rushed for 341 yards and five touchdowns, helping power Polk County Middle to a 32-21 victory in a Blue Ridge Conference playoff game.
McEntyre had 147 yards and three scores in a wild fourth quarter, his last touchdown a 64-yard gallop with 1:08 remaining that finally sealed a win that allowed Polk Middle to end its season with a 3-3 record.
It also brought relief to those who braved winds gusting at 20-25 mph during the game, breezes strong enough at one point to turn over one of the metal benches on the Polk County sideline.
Polk Middle scored first on a McEntyre 28-yard run, but Smoky Mountain (2-3) answered late in the period to take an 8-6 lead. The Mustangs then forced a fumble and scored again for a 14-6 advantage that stood at the half.
That margin held until the final minute of the third period when McEntyre broke free for a 56-yard run, cutting the margin to 14-12.
Polk’s Lorenzo Sanchez forced a Smoky Mountain fumble early in the fourth period, that recovered by Aaron Jackson, to set up a McEntyre 11-yard touchdown run with 4:45 remaining. McEntyre added the 2-point conversion to give Polk a 20-14 advantage.
Then came perhaps the game’s key play.
Kicking off in the wind, Polk’s Avery Hensley lofted a high kick that stalled in the breeze, dropping to the turf and bouncing free before Sanchez pounced on the ball at the 34. That led to a McEntyre 11-yard scoring run with 2:19 left that upped the Wolverines’ lead to 26-14.
Smoky Mountain Middle, though, wasn’t done, scoring on the ensuing kickoff and converting the extra point to slice Polk’s lead to 26-21 with 2:06 to go.
The Wolverines recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt, and McEntyre put the game firmly out of reach with a 64-yard touchdown sprint with 1:08 remaining.
Polk Middle stopped Smoky Mountain Middle on its final possession, and Polk quarterback Gunnar Alm took the final snap of the season and kneeled, ending the most unusual of seasons.