Victory eludes Polk’s grasp in conference-opening loss to Owen
Victory slipped away from Polk County Friday night – literally, figuratively, painfully.
A pair of second-half fumbles and a handful of missed tackles helped Owen rally from an 11-point third-quarter deficit and leave G.M. Tennant Stadium with a 40-33 victory in the Western Highlands Conference opener for both teams.
The Warhorses had won just twice in the previous 14 meetings in the series, perhaps one reason they had some key players switch jersey numbers for the game. But Owen (2-4, 1-0) atoned for some of that frustration with a nine-play, 65-yard drive in the game’s closing minutes, quarterback Auden Meyers scoring the winning touchdown from a yard out with 1:09 remaining.
It marked the fifth straight possession that ended in an Owen touchdown, a surge that Polk County’s offense had to match in order to keep its hopes for a win alive. The two fumbles, occurring less than two minutes apart in the third quarter, kept them from doing so.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “Right now we’re not finding a way to win.”
Say this for the Wolverines (1-6, 0-1) – they could easily have folded after Owen’s third straight scoring drive in the second half, that one ending in Otis Mallory’s 12-yard touchdown run with 11:31 remaining, gave the Warhorses a 33-25 lead.
Instead, Polk County responded with a gritty 15-play, 75-yard scoring effort. Lukas Tipton converted a key fourth-and-4 at Polk’s 41, then added a 12-yard run later in the drive before Mitchell Yoder ended it with a four-yard sweep untouched around right end.
Polk County then needed a 2-point conversion to even the score and got it in spectacular fashion. Quarterback Avery Edwards, dropping back to avoid Owen’s rush, lofted a rainbow from the 25 toward the end zone. Tight end Ryan Heider and two Warhorse defenders leapt for the pass as it descended – Heider came down with it at the 4, then bulled over two tacklers to reach the end zone and tie the game with 4:44 remaining.
Yoder’s touchdown was his third of the night, part of an outstanding effort in which he also ran for 116 yards, threw a 33-yard pass to Steven Chupp on a halfback option, intercepted a pass to stop one Owen drive and broke up a pass to end another.
The senior’s first score came on Polk County’s second play, a 51-yard scoring jaunt that gave the Wolverines a 6-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. Owen responded on the first play of the second period with a touchdown from its own standout running back, Ty Davidson, who plunged into the end zone on fourth-and-goal at the 1 to help give Owen a 7-6 advantage.
Polk County immediately came back as Edwards ran an option play to his left, found a gap in Owen’s defense and raced through it, sprinting 47 yards to the end zone to give the Wolverines a 12-7 lead as Polk’s 2-point conversion attempt failed.
Yoder’s interception, at the Polk 5, sparked the Wolverines’ next scoring drive later in the second quarter. His 33-yard halfback option pass, on a third-and-9 at the 38, put Polk at the Owen 6, and Edwards covered that distance in two plays, pushing into the end zone on a 2-yard run. Matias Akers added the extra point to give the Wolverines a 19-7 lead with 36 seconds left in the half.
But those final seconds proved vital for Owen. Taking over at their 40, the Warhorses reached the Polk 29 in two plays and with nine seconds remaining. Following a timeout, Owen sent Davidson out of the backfield and down the left sideline, and he outjumped two Polk defenders at the 2 to catch Meyers’ pass and fall to the turf just into the end zone with no time remaining. Shavoy Harding’s extra point made it 19-14 at the intermission.
Unbowed, Polk came out of the locker room, shook off that setback and marched 66 yards to open the third quarter. Edwards, who finished with a team-high 118 yards rushing, had key runs of 15 and 16 yards on the drive, which ended with Yoder scoring from the 5, giving the Wolverines a 25-14 lead with 6:37 left in the third.
Davidson, who finished with 208 yards on 22 carries, began Owen’s next possession with a 32-yard run in which he swept to his right, broke three would-be tackles, then reversed field back to his left and picked up 32 yards. One play later he scored on a 26-yard run to cut the Polk lead to 25-20.
The Wolverines would then fumble twice in three plays, once at their 37, once at their 44, and the Warhorses turned both into touchdowns to take the 33-25 lead with 11:31 remaining.
Polk County finished with 332 yards rushing and 386 overall, with Tipton adding 62 yards on eight carries to the totals of Edwards and Yoder.
The Wolverines conclude a four-game home stand next Friday, hosting Avery for Homecoming.