Warhorses snap Polk’s undefeated run with 20-14 victory
BLACK MOUNTAIN – Polk County thought it had the break it finally needed. Instead, seconds later, Owen had an advantage it would never relinquish.
A two-play sequence early in the third quarter Friday helped spur the Warhorses to a 20-14 victory over the Wolverines at Warhorse Stadium, handing Polk County its first loss of the season and its first loss ever in Black Mountain.
The Wolverines (7-1, 1-1) could never find the offensive rhythm that they displayed throughout the first seven games, thanks in part to a physical Owen defense that forced two turnovers and twice stopped Polk on fourth-and-short plays.
Yet a Western Highlands Conference game that often turned ragged – thanks in part to long delays in play for discussions among officials – sat deadlocked at 7-7 when Polk County lined up to punt on its first possession of the second half.
Matias Akers hit a high kick that bounced off the Owen turf and skipped past the feet of Owen returner Fred Graves. Thinking Graves touched the ball, Polk special teams ace Wyatt Deaton shoved Graves out of the way as he turned and ran for the ball, and a group of Wolverines fell on the football at the 5.
But officials immediately ruled that Graves never touched the kick, allowing Owen to retain possession. Perhaps the decision unsettled Polk’s defense, because on the Warhorses’ next play, Dequan Boyce swept to his right, shrugged off a tackler, reached the sideline and raced past the Polk defense to the end zone.
The 95-yard touchdown run and Caleb Wells’ extra point gave the Warhorses a 14-7 advantage with 9:24 remaining and effectively became a 14-point swing from a Polk viewpoint.
“We got exposed a bit tonight in some areas,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “Live and learn and die and forget it all, and I’d rather live and learn. I hope our players will come back in Monday and realize that every day in the Western Highlands Conference is a battle.”
Owen (4-3, 1-1) struck again late in the third period, driving 45 yards in nine plays. Quarterback Caleb Scott plowed into the end zone from a yard out, but Deyton blocked the extra point, leaving the score at 20-7 with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter. It marked the first time all season that Polk trailed by more than seven points.
The Wolverines responded with an 11-play drive that consumed almost six minutes and took Polk to the Owen 2. But there, on fourth-and-goal, Owen’s Jaylin Davidson broke through the line to smother Lukas Tipton just after he took the handoff, denying Polk any points.
The Wolverines forced a punt, took possession at the Owen 49 and scored in five plays, Gage McSwain racing around left end for two yards and a touchdown just one play after he made a spectacular 27-yard reception. Akers added the point after and Polk trailed 20-14, but with only 3:11 left.
The Warhorses recovered Polk’s onside kick attempt and were able to convert a third-and-12 near midfield thanks to quarterback Caleb Scott’s 16-yard run, then ran out the clock to seal a Homecoming victory.
“They played a 4-3 all game, and it didn’t really give us trouble, but we weren’t really prepared for a 4-3,” Ollis said. “We had trouble blocking them on the edge, and our sweeps and our counter plays weren’t as good tonight.
“We did enough things well to win the game. I told our players after Clint Deyton blocked the PAT that we were going to win the game 21-20, and we had our opportunities.”
Polk had scored first in all seven of its games this season, but Shavoy Harding needed just 13 seconds to change that. He took the game’s opening kickoff at the 12, barely avoided Deyton near the 20 and raced through the remaining Wolverines for an 88-yard score and a 7-0 Warhorse lead.
The Wolverines responded later in the quarter with their best drive of the night, a 17-play, 59-yard effort that took more than seven minutes. Polk converted a fourth down, three third downs and finally scored early in the seecond quarter on Bryce Jergenson’s 1-yard sneak. Akers added the extra point to even the game.
Both teams lost standout linemen to disqualifications for multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, with Owen’s Saevion Gibbs sidelined late in the second period and Polk’s Daniel Ruff sent off early in the third.
Boyce finished with 101 yards on five carries, the first 100-yard rusher allowed by Polk this season, as the Warhorses rushed for 215 yards. Angus Weaver had 66 yards on 13 carries to lead Polk.
“We’ve still got some work to do,” Ollis said. “But I promise you as coaches we’ll come in and correct things and we’ll come back and give great effort at (Avery).”
Polk County 0 7 0 7 — 14
Owen 7 0 14 0 — 20
O – Shavoy Harding 88 kickoff return (Caleb Wells kick), 11:47
PC – Bryce Jergenson 1 run (Matias Akers kick), 10:43
O – Dequan Boyce 95 run (Wells kick), 9:24
O – Caleb Scott 1 run (kick blocked), 1:13
PC – Gage McSwain 2 run (Akers kick), 3:11
PC – Angus Weaver 13-66, Gage McSwain 6-31, Bryce Jergenson 13-29, Lukas Tipton 8-25, Nate Henderson 7-20, Cameron Blackwell 2-7. O – Dequan Boyce 5-101, Caleb Scott 14-72, Blake Roberts 4-21, Myles Tate 3-12, Shavoy Hasrdin 3-5.
PC – Bryce Jergenson 3-10-1-46. O – Caleb Scott 2-6-1-17.
PC – Gage McSwain 1-27, Bryson Jackson 1-17, Steven Chupp 1-8. O – Geordon Haggins 1-9, Fred Graves 1-8.