BREVARD – This is what good football teams do. On nights when their top-shelf performances aren’t on display, nights when perhaps the A game has gone missing, good teams still find some path to victory.
Polk County spent much of Friday’s regular-season finale “out of sync,” in the words of head coach Bruce Ollis. But the Wolverines made the key plays when they needed them, especially on defense, and that proved enough for a 21-19 Mountain Foothills 7 Conference triumph over Brevard on a cool, misty evening.
The teams ended their regular seasons with mirror-image records – Polk at 6-3, Brevard at 3-6 – and began the waiting game for Saturday’s announcement of their playoff fates. The Wolverines advanced, but the Blue Devils did not.
A 2-point conversion attempt in the game’s final seconds ultimately settled the outcome.
Polk County used four precious minutes of the fourth-quarter clock in driving 65 yards for its final touchdown, Angus Weaver’s 4-yard run with 4:41 left on the clock. Logan Nodine’s extra point gave the Wolverines a 21-13 advantage and, vitally, meant Brevard would need a 2-point conversion if they scored again.
Tally, the Blue Devils did. Taking possession at its 23, Brevard got a 38-yard pass from Joe Powell to Nahshon Griffin and a 20-yard Powell run to move inside the Polk 20, then converted a fourth-and-3 at the 11. The next two plays netted no yards, but third down brought the unluckiest of breaks for Polk County, with a Powell pass bouncing off two Polk players in the end zone – hitting one on top of the helmet – before finding the hands of Blue Devil Abram Justice. That cut Polk’s lead to two with 32.8 seconds remaining.
Brevard had minor success in the game running the option, and the Blue Devils turned to it once more on the 2-point try. Powell, though, lost possession of the ball while running to his right. Griffin picked up the loose ball, but was hit almost immediately by Polk’s Angus Weaver, then swarmed by a handful of Wolverine defenders at the 6, denying the conversion.
Polk’s Keaundrae Green grabbed the Blue Devils’ ensuing onside kick and dropped immediately to the ground, sealing the outcome.
“We made a play at the end, and then we work on hands team every Thursday and we looked like we knew what we were doing there,” Ollis said of the final two plays. “It wasn’t the cleanest game, but I told them after the game that a team that’s pretty good sometimes win games where they don’t play their best, and we didn’t.”
That Polk County was in position to make the late plays could be credited largely to its defense. The Wolverines largely kept Brevard’s ground game in check, allowing just 82 rushing yards, and twice kept the Blue Devils from posting any points on possessions that reached at least the Polk 30.
Brevard scored twice in the second quarter, the first on a drive that started at the Wolverine 8 after a long Garrett Swicegood punt return, the other on a 38-yard drive set up by a Polk fumble.
“We turned the ball over a couple of times in the first half, which we haven’t done in a long time, which put us behind the 8-ball,” Ollis said.
“Defensively, we really played well, even though we gave up that last score. (Assistant coach Jamie Thompson) called a great game from up top and we made a bunch of plays. We put them in a bad position a couple of times and they came out smelling like a rose. I’m very pleased with the way we played defense.”
Polk County struck first, driving 80 yards in 11 plays for the opening score in the opening period. Casey Beiler had passes of 18 and 34 yards to Jacob Knighton to key a march that ended with Weaver’s 2-yard touchdown run. Nodine added the first of his three key extra points.
Brevard answered in the second quarter with its two scores, but a bad snap ruined the first extra-point attempt. The Devils’ did make the extra point after their second score to make it 13-7 with 7:02 left in the first half.
Vincent Twitty’s interception near midfield led to Polk adding the go-ahead score later in the quarter, with Beiler and Knighton teaming again on a 17-yard touchdown pass. Nodine’s kick made it 14-13 with 2:23 left in the half.
Both teams had drives in the second half into the opposing red zone that failed to produce points before the final frantic minutes of the fourth quarter.
By night’s end, though, Polk had made the plays it needed to gain the road win, as good teams do.
“We talked about this is the culmination of our third season (offseason, preseason, regular season), and we want to finish strong, which is our mantra for the year,” Ollis said. “And we did.”
POLK COUNTY 21, BREVARD 19
Polk County 7 7 0 7 — 21
Brevard 0 13 0 6 — 19
PC – Angus Weaver 2 run (Logan Nodine kick), :44
B – Jake Gravley 8 run (kick failed), 8:49
B – Gravley 30 pass from Joe Powell (Ethan Huggins kick), 7:02
PC – Jacob Knighton 17 pass from Casey Beiler (Nodine kick), 2:23
PC – Weaver 4 run (Nodine kick), 4:41
B – Abram Justice 7 pass from Powell (run failed), :32
PC – Angus Weaver 22-130, Casey Beiler 6-20, Karlen McEntyre 3-7, Mackus Simpson 3-6, Steven Chupp 1-2, Keaundrae Green 1-(-3), Team 1-(-1); B – Garrett Swicegood 16-42, Joe Powell 5-17, Nahshon Griffin 6-14, Jake Gravley 3-12, Caleb Jenkins 1-1, Jaylen Carver 1-1, Team 1-(-5).
PC – Casey Beiler 12-20-2-135; B – Joe Powell 8-13-1-123, Anson Burgess 1-5-0-2.
PC – Jacob Knighton 4-78, Antonio Simpson 3-44, Steven Chupp 3-10, Deaken Nodine 1-7, Mackus Simpson 1-(-4); B – Jake Gravley 3-55, Nahshon Griffin 2-39, Jaylen Carver 2-22, Abram Justice 1-7, Kyle Lovett 1-2.