Jamie Thompson may have been the happiest man Friday night in G.M. Tennant Stadium.
The postgame hug the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator gave Polk County football coach Bruce Ollis, a hug nearly as large as his smile, certainly suggested that.
After losing shutouts the past two weeks on late touchdowns, Polk County finally recorded one. A big one.
Wolverines-Warhorses has been one of the best rivalries in the Western Highlands Conference for the past 15 years, but never in that span did a Polk County team shut out Owen. The conference rivalry ends after this season thanks to realignment and now so has Owen’s scoring streak, the Wolverines claiming a 22-0 victory.
It was a shutout earned and deserved. Polk County (3-1, 2-0) made most of the evening miserable for Owen standout quarterback Caleb Scott, harassing the Western Carolina-bound senior nearly every time he dropped back to pass or attempted to run. Scott threw for 146 yards on 15-of-25 attempts, but finished with nine carries for -52 yards, most of those the result of Polk sacks.
Owen totalled -25 yards rushing, the second straight negative rushing night for a Polk opponent.
“Any time you pitch a shutout, you’ve played a whale of a football game,” Ollis said. “We were awfully scared of the qusrterback. The Scott kid’s a player. He made a couple of throws and they had some drops and we lucked out a little bit.
“But, boy, great team defense. We got rush on him which kept him off-balance and we made some big plays on get-off-the-field downs. I’m so proud of these guys. It’s been a while since we beat that team.”
Polk County sophomore Angus Weaver, meanwhile, followed his five-touchdown effort at Madison with three more scores while rushing for 194 yards on 21 carries. Weaver scored on first-half runs of three and six yards before bursting up the middle for a 42-yard scoring jaunt on the Wolverines’ first possession of the second half.
That score, sandwiched between two three-and-out Owen drives, stamped an air of finality on the night even with a quarter and a half remaining.
“Our coaches did an incredible job at halftime coming up with a scheme,” Ollis said. “Three plays and out on them and we took the ball right down and scored. That drive, I won’t say it sealed the game, but it got us a lot closer to establishing our will.”
Owen (2-2, 0-2) did actually reach the end zone once, in the final minute on a Scott pass to Shavoy Harding. But a flagrant penalty during the play – flagrant enough for officials to assess a 30-yard penalty – negated the score and Owen’s subsequent fourth-down effort failed.
A Polk special teams play set up the Wolverines’ first score. Rushing an Owen punt, Antonio Simpson forcedthe Warhorse upback into Scott’s path as he kicked, deflecting the punt back to the line of scrimmage at the Owen 33. Weaver broke a 30-yard run to the 3, then plowed into the end zone on the next play. For good measure, he took the conversion snap and raced around right end to give Polk two more points and an 8-0 lead with 6:25 remaining.
The Warhorses had their best scoring chance at the end of the first quarter, an interception giving them the ball at the Polk 31. Owen drove to a first-and-goal at the 5, but gained nothing on first down, then saw Fiddle Deyton haul down Scott in the backfield for a six-yard loss and Nate Henderson race untouched on a blitz and drop Scott for a loss of nine. The fourth-and-goal pass from the 20 fell incomplete.
A short Owen punt late in the second period set up the Wolverines’ next score. Taking over at the 43 with 2:37 left before half, the Wolverines covered that gap in three plays – a Gage McSwain 11-yard scamper, a Weaver 26-yard run in which he broke several tackles and spun out of another before being forced out of bounds, and Weaver’s six-yard plunge up the middle and into the end zone. Matias Akers added the extra point for a 15-0 lead with 2:16 remaining.
The Warhorses reached the Polk 20 in the final seconds of the half before Chan Barber’s interception – Polk’s first of the year – stopped that threat.
The Wolverines put together their longest drive of the night on their first possession of the third period, covering 72 yards in six plays. Weaver had 69 of those yards, the final 42 coming on a third-and-six as he raced through a huge gap created by Polk’s offensive line and motored untouched to the end zone. Akers’ extra point made it 22-0 with 7:46 left in the period.
Polk wouldn’t score again, though the Wolverines’ defense would make certain additional points weren’t needed.
“We need to do a better job finishing drives,” Ollis said. “That’s certainly that can come back and haunt you. That’s something that will be a focus for us as we go into next week.”
McSwain added 43 yards on nine carries for Polk, with Casey Beiler finishing 9-of-17 for 80 yards. Weaver had three catches for 34 yards and Elijah Barnes had three for 25 for Polk.
The Wolverines return to G.M. Tennant Stadium on Friday, hosting Avery in another WHC clash while also celebrating Homecoming.