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Passing fancy: Chupp hauls in four TDs to lead Polk County to big win at Mitchell

BAKERSVILLE – Polk County found its way to victory here Friday night with a simple variation on a classic proverb.

Once the Wolverines succeeded, they tried, tried again.

Jason Chupp caught four touchdown passes – highlighting a six-catch, 184-yard effort – to help lead Polk County to a 40-14 win over Mitchell in a Western Highlands Conference clash.

The Wolverines’ sixth consecutive win came at a venue many around the program regard as a difficult road trip, though Polk County had won four of its previous five trips to Bakersville. Mitchell also entered with a 4-2 record, a much-improved squad over recent seasons and coming off a narrow 28-18 loss to undefeated Owen.

And it seemed throughout the first half that the Mountaineers (4-3, 0-2) might keep their WHC title hopes alive while dampening Polk County’s. Mitchell battled on even terms for much of the first two quarters, even leading midway through the second period. But Polk County rebounded to take a 19-14 halftime lead, then dominated the second half with a series of big plays on both sides of the ball to improve to 6-3 overall, 3-0 in WHC play.

“We had to overcome some adversity tonight and in a tough place to play,” said Polk County head coach Jamie Thompson. “It’s kind of dark, and slick grass, and it was raining and wet and we were sliding around a little bit.

“But we were able to come out of here with a big win, and it ended up being big on the scoreboard. But the (game) was closer than the scoreboard should be right now.”

The flurry of big blows began in the third period. Following a Mitchell punt, Jordan Smith took a handoff into the line on first down, found open space and exploded up the middle through the Mitchell defense for an 80-yard touchdown run with 8:08 left in the third period.

A Daquan Gary interception stopped Mitchell’s next drive, but the Wolverines couldn’t take advantage and had to punt, with Smith doing so and pinning the Mountaineers on their 7-yard line.

Facing a third-and-12 from the 5, Mitchell freshman quarterback Ben Young rolled to his left and looked to pass from his end zone. Chased by Fred Salerno, and with D.J. Twitty fast approaching, Young flipped the ball toward the Wolverine sideline and out-of-bounds – but nowhere near any Mitchell receiver. That drew a intentional grounding call, and since Young was in the end zone, meant a safety for Polk and a 27-14 lead.

The Wolverines then took possession at midfield following the Mitchell free kick. With third-and-1 at the 41, quarterback Jamal Wheeler rolled to his left, stopped and fired a arching pass toward Chupp in the end zone. Chupp had cleared the Mitchell defender, but he also fell down, allowing Chupp to make an easy touchdown grab. With 3:14 left in the third period, the Wolverines led 33-14.

Chupp then closed the scoring in the fourth with a spectacular 37-yard touchdown catch, timing his leap perfectly, battling a Mitchell defender for a Wheeler pass near the goal line, pulling away with the ball and falling into the end zone. Davis Derkach added the extra point for the 40-14 lead.

“They were stacking us in the box. We were giving them some formations where they were stacking in the box and we could compress the formation and expand on the passes,” Thompson said. “We knew that play action could hurt them some, and two of (Chupp’s) touchdowns were play-action passes.

“They made it hard for us to run the ball tonight. We still ran it in spots, but they were giving us the pass, and that’s what we went to.”

Forty points would prove plenty for a Polk County defense that continues to improve weekly. The Wolverines forced five turnovers – two interceptions and three fumbles – and held Mitchell to 166 total yards and one score, the Mountaineers getting their other touchdown on a 95-yard kickoff return in the first quarter by Tre Carson. That came just after Chupp caught his first touchdown pass, a 24-yarder in the back left corner of the end zone to give the Wolverines a 7-0 lead with 3:57 left in the first.

Down 8-7 after the kickoff return and a Mitchell 2-point conversion, the Wolverines pulled ahead with a big play in the second period,. A fumble recovery by Chupp gave Polk County the ball at its 35. On first down, Wheeler took the snap and rolled to his left, firing a long pass downfield without hardly breaking stride. Chupp angled away from a Mitchell defender, located the ball, grabbed it over his shoulder and raced into the end zone, the 65-yard strike giving Polk a 13-8 lead with 8:23 left in the half (watch video of the catch).

Mitchell promptly answered, getting possession at the Polk 46 after a failed onside kick. The Mountaineers needed five plays to cover that distance, Carson weaving his way through the Polk defense with a screen pass, turning the short toss into a 36-yard touchdown.

But Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards to the Mitchell 36. Polk soon faced a fourth-and-seven at the 33, but Wheeler took a deep snap while in shotgun formation and sprinted up the middle for 19 yard and a first down. Polk then converted a fourth-and-1 at the 5, Smith getting the yardage by the length of a football, before Smith powered over the left side of the line for a 4-yard touchdown run. The score gave the Wolverines the 19-14 lead they would take into the locker room.

“Mitchell is huge up front. They’ve got a couple of kids 260, 280,” Thompson said. “We were able to maintain the line of scrimmage and move it back. Linebackers were flying around making plays, we played well in the secondary. It’s easy as an offensive play caller to know when your defense is shutting a team down. It makes it easier on you. You can play a little more conservative sometimes or sometimes you can go for it.”

Wheeler finished with 92 yards on 16 carries while throwing for 194 yards on 7-of-13 attempts. Smith had 98 yards on eight carries to lead a Polk ground game that totalled 230 yards on 40 attempts.

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