Polk Middle plays second-half keepaway to stop Flat Rock

Polk County Middle turned football into the simplest of games on Thursday afternoon.

The Wolverines kept possession of the ball for nearly the entire second half, which made it awfully difficult for Flat Rock Middle to score.

Polk Middle’s game of keepaway provided the foundation for three straight touchdowns and a 34-24 victory over the Eagles at Utz Field.

The Wolverines (3-1) received the ball to start the second half and only allowed Flat Rock (1-2) to run one offensive play until 2:40 remained in the game. By that point, Polk Middle had turned a halftime tie into an 18-point lead, assuring the Wolverines of a third straight win that also gave them sole possession of first place in the Blue Ridge Conference’s East Division.

The second-half surge began with the first drive of the third quarter. Polk got a key fourth-down pass from Avery Hensley to Sawyer Huff that kept the drive alive and set up quarterback Aaron Jackson’s 18-yard touchdown scramble with 2:12 left in the quarter. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Polk with a 22-16 lead.

Flat Rock fumbled on the first play of its ensuing possession, with Huff recovering at the Eagle 36. Polk methodically marched to the 5, where the Wolverines faced fourth-and-2. Operating from its trademark spread formation – the swinging gate, as it’s more commonly known – Hensley took the snap and immediately faced a rush of defenders. Sprinting to his left, he outraced all three, then cut upfield, avoided another defender and reached the end zone.

Polk’s 2-point conversion attempt again failed, but the Wolverines still had a 28-16 lead with 4:31 left in the game.

Polk Middle’s Aiden Billings celebrates after tackling a Flat Rock runner in the backfield

Spotting a hole in Flat Rock’s kickoff formation, Polk head coach Ethan Edwards had Hensley kick off in that direction, with Lorenzo Sanchez sprinting down the sideline to recover the free ball. That eventually led to a Jackson 21-yard touchdown pass to Huff with 2:43 left that boosted the Wolverines’ advantage to 18 points and effectively sealed the win.

Flat Rock responded with a touchdown on a tipped pass, but Polk Middle recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt and ran out the clock. That possession was the only one on which the Wolverines did not score.

Flat Rock took an early 8-0 lead, keeping the ball most of the first quarter with its ground-based wishbone attack. Polk Middle responded with its own run-focused approach, with Sanchez helping carry the Wolverines into the red zone.

Jackson capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, and Hensley converted the 2-point attempt for an 8-8 game with 6:03 left in the first half.

Flat Rock again marched downfield and scored, this time with 1:05 remaining in the second quarter, to grab a 16-8 lead. That advantage lasted less than 10 seconds as Hensley cleanly fielded Flat Rock’s line drive kickoff at the Polk 30 and raced through the middle of the Eagles’ return team, largely untouched on the 70-yard scoring return. Hensley added the 2-point attempt to tie the game at 16 with 54 seconds left in the half.

Polk Middle concludes its run of three straight home games next Thursday, hosting Rugby in what will be the Wolverines’ final regular-season home game. A win would assure Polk Middle of at least a share of the East Division title.

Polk Middle’s Avery Hensley soars to catch a pass during the Wolverines’ first possession of Thursday’s game

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