Shoulder pads popped. Helmets occasionally flew off. The large Homecoming crowd oohd and aahd following numerous big hits.
A physical week of practice for Polk County certainly carried over Friday night.
Which proved exactly what the Wolverines needed to both slow R-S Central’s flexbone attack and regain some of their offensive mojo in putting together a 48-28 Mountain Foothills 7 Conference victory in G.M. Tennant Stadium.
The 48 points are the most that a Polk County team has ever scored against R-S Central and kept the largest crowd of the season entertained from start to finish. The Wolverines (4-2, 2-1) scored on every possession save for a short missed field goal, red-zone fumble and three kneeldowns to run out the final minute of the victory.
“I was so proud of the way we played,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “We were so physical tonight. You have to be playing against that offense. They’re a strong, fast, physical football team. I think our practices this week were the most physical they’ve been all year, and that carried over to the game.
“We threw and caught the ball well and I think we kept them off-balance there. We ran the ball between the tackles well, and that’s a recipe for success in most cases.”
Angus Weaver ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns and Steven Chupp also scored twice. The two were also the central figures in a play that helped firmly shift the game’s momentum in Polk’s favor.
R-S Central (1-4, 1-2) rallied from an early 13-point deficit and tied the score at 21 early in the third quarter. Polk County responded with a 60-yard drive that ended in a Weaver 2-yard touchdown run and a 28-21 Polk County advantage with 4:53 left in the third period.
On the Hilltoppers’ next offensive snap, quarterback Jaiden Coston rolled around left end and steamed upfield until he encountered Weaver, who is playing with a large cast around a broken bone in his left hand. While corralling Coston with that left arm, Weaver forced the football free with his right hand, the ball popping into the air and seeming to hang there for a few seconds until Chupp snared it.
With a convoy of teammates on the field and most of Polk’s off-the-field squad racing down the sideline as well, Chupp sprinted 48 yards to the end zone, and suddenly Polk’s lead returned to 13 points with 4:28 left in the third quarter.
“That one really felt good,” Ollis said. “And I think a man with one arm pulled the ball out, if I’m not mistaken, so that’s a pretty good deal, too.”
R-S Central responded with a 71-yard scoring drive that ended in a 4-yard Ken Hines III touchdown run, cutting the deficit back to six. Polk’s ensuing drive ended with a fumble at the Hilltopper 8, a turnover that could have given R-S Central fuel for a comeback.
But the Polk defense played one of its best series, preventing R-S from getting a first down. A Chupp punt return put the Wolverines at the 23, and Casey Beiler soon found a wide-open Jacob Knighton for a 19-yard touchdown toss with 7:03 remaining.
The Wolverine defense again clamped down on R-S, with Kanye Staley getting a huge sack of Coston, and freshman Karlen McEntyre scored the first touchdown of his career with 3:16 remaining to seal a Homecoming triumph.
“This was a team effort,” Ollis said. “We worked our kids hard this week.
“We were disappointed after last week, and it showed. We came in Monday and their chins were on the chests a little bit. We watched film, we corrected our mistakes and as a result, we came away with a win tonight.”
The Wolverines never trailed, marching 65 yards on the opening possession of the game for a 1-yard Weaver touchdown plunge and a 7-0 lead. Polk forced an R-S punt and then drive 55 yards for another score, this one on a Chupp 6-yard sweep around the left side.
R-S responded with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Coston to Trey Shearer, but the Wolverines answered again with a 54-yard drive. Mackus Simpson’s determined 10-yard run, in which he emerged from a pile that seemed to contain every Hilltopper defender to pick up additional yardage, led to Beiler’s 2-yard score and a 21-7 lead with 6:11 left in the half.
The Hilltoppers scored on a short Coston run with 32 seconds left in the half after a pass interference call that Wolverine coaches vehemently disagreed with negated an interception in the end zone. With time short, Beiler hit Antonio Simpson on pass plays of 41 and 21 yards to get the Wolverines to the Hilltopper 4, but Isaac Hernandez’ 20-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide right as the half ended.
R-S Central would even the game early in the third period, but it would be all Wolverines from that point forward.
Polk County has an open week before its final regular-season home game on Oct. 15 against Chase.
POLK COUNTY 48, R-S CENTRAL 28
R-S Central 0 14 14 0 — 28
Polk County 13 8 13 14 — 48
PC – Angus Weaver 1 run (Isaac Hernandez kick), 7:23
PC – Steven Chupp 6 run (kick failed), 2:02
RSC – Trey Shearer 21 pass from Jaiden Coston (Tripp Triplett kick), 9:57
PC – Casey Beiler 2 run (Mackus Simpson run), 6:11
RSC – Coston 4 run (Triplett kick), :32
RSC – Ken Hines III 22 run (Triplett kick), 8:21
PC – Weaver 2 run (Logan Nodine kick), 4:53
PC – Chupp 48 fumble recovery (kick failed), 4:28
RSC – Xavier Toms 4 run (Triplett kick), :49
PC – Jacob Knighton 19 pass from Beiler (Weaver run), 7:03
PC – Karlen McEntyre 9 run (kick failed), 3:16
R-S Central: Jaiden Coston 23-125, Xavier Toms 9-75, Ken Hines III 11-62, Levi Vogel 2-15, Dahjay Palmer 1-1. Polk County: Angus Weaver 23-159, Steven Chupp 5-28, Karlen McEntyre 3-12, Mackus Simpson 1-10, Casey Beiler 2-0, Team 3-(-6).
R-S Central: Jaiden Coston 3-10-0-90, Trey Shearer 0-1-0-0. Polk County: Casey Beiler 8-16-0-139.
R-S Central: Trey Shearer 2-50, Aaron Cuthbertson 1-40. Polk County: Antonio Simpson 6-99, Steven Chupp 1-21, Jacob Knighton 1-19.