Polk County's Dre Thompson finds room to run in the first half of Thursday's game

Waynesville Middle reached the Blue Ridge Conference championship game a season ago.

The Mountaineers looked Thursday as if they’re ready to be contenders once again.

Waynesville pulled away in the second half to hand Polk County Middle a 40-8 setback in the season opener for both teams at Utz Field.

The Wolverines took the opening kickoff, marched downfield on the running of Dre Thompson and Isaiah Staley and seemed set to take an early lead.

But Polk’s drive stalled at the Waynesville 4-yard line, and the Mountaineers responded with a 96-yard march to score with 3:48 left in the first half. An interception gave the ball back to Waynesville at the Polk 44, and the Mountainers used a bit of trickery – an end around halfback pass – to score with 16 seconds left in the half and take a 16-0 advantage.

The teams swapped two turnovers each in the third quarter before Waynesville scored again late in the period. The Mountaineers then added scores on a long touchdown run and an interception return to boost the lead to 40-0 with 2:27 remaining.

Polk Middle, though, was far from defeated. Staley took a pitch around left end on the Wolverines’ next play and raced 73 yards to the end zone, with Thompson adding the 2-point conversion to account for the final margin.

Staley unofficially finished with 97 yards on seven carries for Polk Middle, which will be back in action next Thursday at Brevard Middle.

Polk Middle’s Sam Rhein stops a Waynesville runner in the first half of Thursday’s game