Landrum/Polk football clash goes to Polk, 21-15

Published 10:59 pm Monday, September 16, 2013

On a clear night, with fans filling stands on both sides of the field, the Polk County Wolverines notched their first win of the season, defeating the Landrum Cardinals 21-15 in a heated rivalry match.

The intensity of the rivalry was no doubt a factor with 17 penalty calls and bursts of fierce defense from both squads.

After a scoreless first quarter, Polk struck first, then second and third, building a 21-0 lead, before Landrum quarterback Aaron Bryant turned in some brilliant ball carrying. He eventually scored from the Polk 2-yard line, with 31 seconds left in the half.

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Bryant then completed a 2-point conversion toss to Jacob Lanning to end the first-half scoring.

Polk’s early scoring “built some momentum for us,” said Wolverine Coach Bruce Ollis. “The problem was we finished poorly.”

The first half was marked by big penalties against Landrum, while Polk committed a number of infractions in the second. All told, the Cardinals yielded 92 penalty yards; the Wolverines 61.

Polk got on the board with 9:50 left in the second quarter. Facing a fourth and 10 at the Landrum 35, Wolverines quarterback Reece Schlabach hit Jamal Tanner, who took the ball to about the Landrum five. After a personal foul against the Cardinals, the ball was spotted at the three. Dante Posten carried the ball to within about half a yard of the end zone, before Jordan Smith finished the job.

After stopping a Cardinal drive, Polk gained its first two-touchdown lead of the season, when Schlabach hit Tanner again, this play good for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Less than one minute of play later, Polk’s Bruce Martin intercepted a Bryant pass, setting up Schlabach’s 13-yard run for the Wolverine’s third TD.

Polk couldn’t score again, but came close early in the second half. At the Landrum 33 with fourth and seven, Schlabach hit Smith who made it to the Cardinal 14. Four plays later, Landrum stopped Polk a few inches shy of another first down. Bryant dove his team to the Polk 15, but on fourth and four threw an incomplete pass under tremendous Wolverine pressure. Polk took over, but eventually had to punt.

The Cardinals’ Caleb Bruce fielded the punt, lost it and Polk appeared to recover the ball. The officials ruled, however, that the ball did belonged to Landrum at its own 37. This time, Bryant took his team all the way, as he completed a touchdown pass to Jacob Lanning with 6:20 left in the game. John Martinez’s PAT kick made it 21-15.

The momentum shifted to Landrum, as the Cardinal defense smothered Polk’s attempts to move the ball after receiving the kick.

A short punt by Schlabach to Polk’s 46 gave the Cardinals great field position, but this time, a fired-up Wolverine defense forced Bryant to throw a fourth-down pass out of bounds. With 2:49 left in the game, the Wolverines had to play ball-control offense, and did just that. Schlabach passed and ran the ball to Landrum’s 26 with just over 21 seconds left, then ran out the clock to nail down the win.

Ollis also pointed to Tanner’s touchdown catch, and said he (Ollis) “didn’t give up on Jamal after he dropped a couple of passes… He’s a very dynamic player. It was great to get him back (from an injury).” Ollis praised Posten too, who “did a great job at tailback (running for 116 yards).” He also pointed out the importance of Marino’s three PAT kicks.

“There wasn’t any give-up in our players after starting the season 0-3,” Ollis said. “We’ll have all our weapons next week… Winning cures a lot of ills.”

Landrum coach Russell Mahaffey said the rivalry between Landrum and Polk dates back to at least the late 1960s before the present larger schools had been formed from smaller, local schools.

Mahaffey admitted, “I hate to lose,” a game between traditional rivals, but he heaped praise on his players.

“I’m real proud of my team… They didn’t lie down. We came back. We had an opportunity at the end,” Mahaffey said, though he added he was disappointed Landrum did not score late in the game, when a dropped ball helped keep them out of Polk’s end zone.

Mahaffey said losing his starting tailback in the second half was also a blow.

But he pointed to a highlight of Landrum’s game in Bryant’s stellar performance, mentioning that Bryant grabbed about 350 all-purpose yards, bringing his total in just three games to more than 1,200 such yards.

“He’s an amazing kid,” said Mahaffey, “he’s a team player.”

Bryant completed 15 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown, and carried the ball 26 times for 131 yards and the first Cardinal TD.

The Wolverines are home Friday, Sept. 20 against East Henderson, while Landrum hosts Carolina Academy (of Greenville). Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.