Polk tops Madison, 21-7, in conference openerPublished 11:51pm Sunday, September 29, 2013
In a 21-7 victory over Madison Friday, Sept. 27, the Wolverines may have rediscovered a bit of something the football team lost this time last year.
Coach Bruce Ollis said last year, when the Wolverines traveled to Madison, “ . . . we left a little of our swagger there. I think we got it back.”
Getting it back took only as long as Polk’s Jamal Tanner needed to catch Madison’s opening kickoff at his own 10-yard line and race to the visitors’ end zone, jump-starting the Wolverines’ win.
That victory evens Polk’s record at 3-3, and makes the Wolverines 1-0 in conference play.
“You can control your own destiny when you win your first conference game,” said Ollis. “I like to be in the driver’s seat, not a back-seat driver.”
Polk’s win featured the kind of balanced attack possible when starting players are healthy, with important contributions from Reece Schlabach (seven of 10 passes, with one touchdown, plus 90 yards rushing, with one TD), Anthony Carson (four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown), Donte Posten (10 carries for 57 yards, and one catch for 17 yards), Jordan Smith (32 yards rushing), Matt Darden (20 yards rushing), Tanner (17 yards on the ground, and one catch for seven yards, and Jerry Cox (one catch for 18 yards).
Some of Schlabach’s late-game rushing yards may have originated from the degree of ferocity he showed after taunting from opponents. Carson then scored what proved to be the winning points, when he snared one of Schlabach’s passes at the Madison two, and ran the ball in, with 7:48 to go in just the first quarter.
At that point, a lopsided win by Polk seemed more than possible, but a few hiccups by Polk, and solid play by the visitors, kept Madison in the game until Polk, aided by its tenacious defense, controlled the ball in the final minutes.
Madison seemed to surge toward a score, with a long pass completion to Cole Cuthbertson at the Wolverines’ 8-yard line, one of two big pass plays by the Patriots. However, Polk drew a line in the turf at its own 1-yard line, stopping Madison.
With just over a minute left in the half, Madison struck again by air, this time about a 60-yard play to Cuthbertson, who took the ball in for a score, making it 14-7, Polk, at the half.
“Other than those two long plays,” said Ollis (which he attributed to correctable mistakes), “we shut down their passing game. The biggest thing is, we’re 1-0 in the conference.”
Until the fourth quarter, the Wolverines guarded their 14-7 lead, and many Polk fans guarded their optimism. Schlabach then engineered a 16-play drive that ended on his keeper from the Madison two. Anthony Marino’s third consecutive extra point boot ended the scoring, and gave the Wolverines breathing room.
The Wolverines, who turned the ball over three times, sealed the win when they recovered a Madison fumble at the Polk 28. From there, Polk controlled the ball until the clock ran out.
“We rushed the ball awfully well,” continued Ollis. “We passed well. Reece really delivered the ball. At the end of the game, when we needed to milk the ball, we could do it.”
Polk’s defense seems to improve each game, with explosive hits near, or behind, the line of scrimmage. Early in the third quarter, after Hoffman broke a long run to Polk’s four, the Patriots eventually faced a fourth and “goal” from the 13, after taking the ball to Polk’s four. Again Polk’s defense stopped them cold, blocking a field goal attempt.
“Our goal-line defense, we call ‘Rhino,’” said Ollis. “‘Rhino’ was good for us. We got some huge stops. We stopped them twice inside the 10. That’s how you win football games.”
This Friday, Polk travels to Mountain Heritage, not an easy place to play, said Ollis.
But, he added, “We travel well.”