Missed opportunities cost Wolverines in 20-13 setback
FLAT ROCK – Polk County football coach Bruce Ollis doesn’t like the moniker “red zone” that’s used to describe the 20 yards closest to the end zone.
“I call it the green zone, because red means ‘stop,’ ” he said.
On Friday night, at East Henderson High School’s E.L. Justus Field, the Wolverines were stopped on several occasions as they were in the red zone or neared the Eagles’ endzone.
Several penalties and a turnover stalled drives and the Wolverines dropped their third straight with a 20-13 loss to the Eagles.
East Henderson’s win broke a seven-game losing skid to the Wolverines dating back to 1994.
For Polk County, it was another game where it dominated much of the action and still lost a tight contest. The Wolverines ran 80 plays and had 336 rushing yards. They finished with 366 total offensive yards, compared to 288 (on 41 plays) by East Henderson.
“We played so well,” Ollis said. “I told our team that if they gave trophies for running the ball between the 20s we’d have a trophy case full. We’ve got to find a way to finish.”
Three first-half drives were fruitless and each ended inside the 25-yard line, including one where a field goal barely missed. Polk County also fumbled away another scoring chance early in the fourth quarter on the 27-yard line.
Still, the Wolverines had a chance to earn their second win of the season.
Polk County opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game when quarterback Avery Edwards blasted into the end zone from one yard out.
During their first three games the Wolverines committed seven fumbles, but both scores on Friday came after their opponents fumbled. Lukas Tipton corralled the first fumble and Hayden Shumate secured another in the third quarter.
Six running plays after Shumate’s fumble recovery, Tipton scored from three yards out to cut East Henderson’s lead to 14-13.
East Henderson built tht one-point halftime lead in the final two minutes of the first half on a fake punt, where Caleb Shipman ran 41 yards for the score, and on Shipman’s 39-yard touchdown reception with 18 seconds left.
“Everyone on the sideline knew that (No.) 5 wasn’t their punter. We knew they were going to run the ball and we just didn’t make a play,” Ollis said. “He made an incredibly athletic play. He’s a dadgum good player.”
.Shipman finished with 55 rushing yards, 103 receiving yards and also returned kicks for the Eagles, who are now 4-1 on the season.
Polk County (1-3) had two players rush for more than 100 yards as Mitchell Yoder had 114 on nine carries and Camron Blackwell finished with 104 rushing yards on 23 carries. Tipton finished with 60 rushing yards and Edwards had 40, including a fourth-down scamper that ended as he bowled over a defender.
“We executed what we thought we had to to win the game. We kept it away from their explosive players,” Ollis said. “We did exactly what we had to do to win. We’ve just got to clean up a few things.”
The defense had a good night, too, as it forced two fumbles and had a series where it had three sacks. During that drive, Trey Thompson and Logan Conner each recorded sacks and then Thompson and Luke Sellers combined to drop the Eagles’ quarterback.
The Wolverines played without four starters on offense and still averaged 4.8 yards per play.
Polk County had a chance to make a game-winning drive after East Henderson took a 20-13 lead with 7:32 left om Zay Henderson’s 2-yard scoring run. Penalties stalled the drive on three occasions, but the Wolverines still gained yards.
On fourth-and-nine, Edwards scrambled and found Blackwell for the needed yards. The offense, though, couldn’t completed a second pass on the next fourth down and the 12-play drive stalled. East Henderson ran out the clock to secure the win.
“I told these guys that they have to keep believing,” Ollis said. “That’s why the good Lord put eyes in the front of our head and not in the back of our heads, that’s so we can look forward.
“One of my favorite sayings is ‘FIDO’ – you’ve got to ‘forget it and drive on.’ We’ll look at what we did positively and rectify what we didn’t do well and give Pisgah all they can handle at our place next week.”