Reece Schlabach scored three touchdowns and threw for another to lead Polk County to a 35-7 victory at Avery County in a penalty-filled Western Highlands Conference game in Newland.
In winning their sixth consecutive game, the Wolverines (6-3, 4-0) built a 21-0 halftime lead, then never let Avery (3-5, 0-3) sustain any momentum in the second half in remaining tied atop the WHC standings with Owen. Polk will enjoy an open date next week before traveling to Owen in two weeks.
Unofficially, there were 25 penalties called in the game, with Avery flagged 15 times, two of those negating Avery touchdowns, and Polk drawing 10 flags.
The Wolverines had the ball just once in the first period, but made the most of it. Facing a third-and-25 at the Avery 30, Schlabach hit Tyrone Miller for a 28-yard gain to the 2. On the next play, Jordan Smith plunged into the end zone, and while the extra point attempt was blocked, Polk had a 6-0 lead with three seconds left in the first quarter.
Avery fumbled on its next possession deep in its territory, and the Wolverines capitalized. Polk converted a fourth-and-5 at the 11, then capped the drive with a three-yard Schlabach run. Schlabach added the 2-point conversion, giving Polk a 14-0 lead with 6:34 left in the second quarter.
The Vikings then drove into Polk territory, converting a fourth-and-2 at the Polk 44 to keep the drive alive, before failing to convert another fourth down and turning the ball over to the Wolverines with 1:07 left in the half. Schlabach wasted little time in finding Smith for a 41-yard touchdown pass, a key score that gave Polk County a 21-0 bulge at halftime.
The Wolverines received the kickoff to open the second half and scored for the fourth straight possession. A Schlabach-to-Smith pass moved the Wolverines deep into Avery territory, setting up Schlabach’s 23-yard touchdown run. The extra point was again blocked, giving the Wolverines a 27-0 lead with 7:58 remaining.
Avery’s Christian Hicks then returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a score, but a penalty negated the touchdown. Undeterred, Avery marched steadily downfield and finally tallied on Daniel Childress’ 14-yard touchdown scamper, cutting the deficit to 27-7 with 6:44 left in the third.
Polk was finally stopped on its ensuing drive and forced to punt. Avery again drove downfield and appeared to score on a Tre Jackson 26-yard run, but a flag wiped away that score. Eventually, Avery settled for a 48-yard Jackson field goal attempt, which missed.
The Wolverines completed the scoring in the fourth period, as two Schlabach passes to Anthony Carson moved Polk to the 1, where Schlabach scored on a quarterback sneak. The senior quarterback then hit Miller for the 2-point conversion, wrapping up the scoring with 10:21 left in the game.
Unofficially, Schlabach went 9-of-13 for 199 yards passing and also ran for 55 yards on 12 carries to lead the Polk offense. Smith caught four passes for 72 yards. The Polk defense held Avery to 136 total yards, all rushing.