Polk County did nearly everything correct Friday – except win.
Head coach Bruce Ollis said it, and the postgame tears on the faces of Wolverine plays reflected it. A Senior Night that could easily have ended in celebration instead culminated in a 31-27 Brevard victory at G.M. Tennant Stadium.
The loss in Polk County’s regular-season finale left the Wolverines with a 5-5 record, including 3-3 in Mountain Foothills 7 Conference play. Polk should still receive a 2A state playoff berth when those brackets are announced Saturday.
And that, perhaps, was the only consolation for the Wolverines, knowing one more week remains to erase the taste of a setback as bitter as any this season.
“A game of what-ifs,” Ollis said. “A great effort by our seniors tonight. I was so pleased with their effort, and we did everything but win.
“The great thing is, we’re going to line up and get a chance to play another game next week. I just hate it for these guys that we lost their last game at home. But I’m certainly proud of our team.”
Brevard (5-5, 4-2) turned two Polk fumbles into 10 points. The Blue Devils turned a fourth-down stop into seven more. In a battle between evenly-matched teams, as these were, it’s often the small slipups that determine the game’s outcome, and Brevard certainly seized every opportunity presented.
Yet Polk still had a chance to win. After Brevard scored to take its four-point lead with 5:10 remaining, the Wolverines got the ball at the Brevard 37 and began to drive. Back-to-back runs by Angus Weaver moved Polk to the Blue Devil 30 before the drive slowed, leaving Polk facing a fourth-and-8 at the 28.
Ollis turned to a play on which Polk nearly scored in the first half, a pass to Weaver wheeling out of the backfield. But a Brevard defender broke into the backfield and forced Polk quarterback Casey Beiler to scramble. Beiler somehow stayed on his feet long enough to get a pass off downfield, but Brevard’s Leo Maupin intercepted the desperation toss, and the Blue Devils ran out the final two minutes.
“They made a great play there,” Ollis said. “We had a little wheel route we’d hit to Angus earlier, and we still had the bootleg back to the other side. We didn’t block it particularly well. Casey made an incredible effort to get the ball off. That interception doesn’t go to him.”
In his final appearance on W.J. Miller Field, Weaver delivered a fitting farewell performance. He rushed for 209 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries, pushing his career total past 4,500 yards. He surpassed school records for career touchdowns and career points during the game and now owns five school milestones.
His first scoring run, a 60-yard gallop at the end of the first quarter, tied the game at 7-7. His second, a 3-yard plunge midway through the second quarter, capped a 12-play, 74-yard drive highlighted by Beiler’s 26-yard pass to Antonio Simpson and a Beiler 13-yard run on a fourth-and-4 play at the 17 and gave the Wolverines a 14-7 lead.
Polk followed that score with its second straight three-and-out stop of Brevard and got the ball with three minutes left, looking to march again and widen the lead before the half.
That seemed set to happen, too, as Beiler found Simpson open for a long pass. But Brevard’s Nason Griffin managed to wrestle down Simpson and poke away the football at the Brevard 27, with Henry Ogle scooping it up and returning it into Polk territory. The Devils then scored on Colten Swicegood’s 37-yard screen pass to Dillon Galloway, leading to a 14-14 score at the half.
Polk, though, roared out of the dressing room and put together a 60-yard scoring drive keyed by Beiler completions to Simpson and Weaver and capped by Weaver’s 7-yard scoring run, giving the Wolverines a 21-14 lead. Polk then forced another Brevard three-and-out, but Wolverine Karlen McEntyre mishandled the ensuing Blue Devil punt, and Brevard’s Jacob Stockton recovered at the Polk 33. That led to a 22-yard Hernando Hernandez field goal and a 21-17 Brevard lead.
The Wolverines then failed to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Brevard 45, and a long Brevard pass led to a Swicegood 4-yard scoring run and a 24-21 Blue Devil lead entering the final quarter.
“We’re going in for a score and fumble the ball, and we fumble a punt, and those things add up over time.” Ollis said. “They were very opportunistic. Our kicking game hurt us early and then we got a PAT blocked, so we didn’t execute in some areas.”
Polk regained the advantage with an eight-play, 69-yard march, Weaver covering the final 18 yards to the end zone with 8:23 remaining in the game. Logan Nodine’s extra point was blocked, leaving Polk’s lead at 27-24.
Brevard responded with a 53-yard scoring drive that ended in Griffin’s 19-yard touchdown run that proved the game-winner.
Simpson had five catches for 113 yards as Beiler finished 6-of-11 for 129 yards. Griffin rushed for 106 yards on 15 carries and Swicegood finished 5-of-10 passing for 113 yards for Brevard.
“We’ll show up on Monday and get back to work and win a playoff game. We’re capable of doing that,” Ollis said. “Again, I’m proud of these young men and proud to be associated with them.”