Shelby Lions tumble Wolverines 50 – 20

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jordan Smith carries the ball for the Wolverines. For more photos visit (photos by Mark Schmerling).

Jordan Smith carries the ball for the Wolverines. For more photos visit (photos by Mark Schmerling).


By Mark Schmerling

Last year, after Polk County High School’s varsity football team lost the season opener to Shelby, the Wolverines got a little better each game, and eventually won nine straight, to capture the Western Highlands Conference title and make it to the state playoffs.

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On Friday, the Wolverines, said head coach Jamie Thompson, “got great experience against a great team,” in a 50-20 Polk loss that featured a number of bright spots.  “Hopefully, Thompson said, “that experience will pay off down the road.”

Polk officials have a plan in the Wolverines facing Shelby, Asheville (This Friday at Columbus), and R-S Central (away on Sept. 5). “It (facing tough non-conference teams) will help us at playoff time,” Thompson emphasized. “Our kids battled,” Thompson added.

While the offense, mostly led by Jamal Wheeler as quarterback, was unable to score until late in the game, the Wolverines did move the ball well at times, though not consistently. Shelby, featuring much the same lineup that won the 2013 state AA title, got on the board first.

Polk elected to receive the opening kickoff, but the Wolverines’ were forced to punt on a fourth and four and their own 36. Jordan Smith’s punt put the Golden Lions at their own 22. Shelby moved the ball well, but interrupted its march downfield with a series of penalties, the last, moving the ball from the Wolverines’ 22 back to the 27.

Polk’s defense forced Shelby to attempt a 39-yard field goal, the boot just clearing the cross bar to give the Lions a 3-0 lead. Polk took its only lead of the evening, when, with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Bryce Martin intercepted one of R. J. George’s passes, and scampered all the way downfield for six points. Shelby blocked the extra-point attempt, but Polk led, 6-3.

Polk was unable to contain Shelby, but didn’t make it easy for the hosts. With time running out at the end of the first quarter, the Lions’ Buck Ussery ran the ball in from the Wolverines’ 18. The extra point made it 10-3, Shelby.

After the Lions recovered a Wolverine fumble at Polk’s 36, Polk’s Jason Chupp returned the favor by snaring one of George’s passes. Unfortunately, Polk couldn’t get past the Lions’ defense, and had to punt from its 14. Worse yet, a Lion defender blocked the punt, giving the hosts possession at the Wolverine 12. George was able to score on a quarterback keeper with7:45 left in the first half. The PAT made it 17-6.

On its next possession, Polk had to give up the ball again, with Shelby taking Smith’s punt only to its 24. Several plays later, Shelby’s Chad Reid ran the ball 29 yards to Polk’s 17. Shelby scored from Polk’s five with 4:34 left in the half, then made the extra point, to open a 24-6 advantage.

Later, the Wolverines moved the ball as far as Shelby’s 37, courtesy of Jamal Wheeler’s pass to Chupp and a roughing-the-passer penalty. A few plays later, they had to punt. On Shelby’s second play, George completed a touchdown bomb to Demerrio Houston. One kick later, Shelby had a 31-6 lead that the Lions took into half time.

In the second half, the Wolverines were able to put more points on the board. Before they could do that, Shelby had added 19 points. George completed another TD pass; Shelby blocked another Wolverine punt, and ran the ball in for a score; and the Lions intercepted a pass and ran that in for their final score.

On that last play, Polk’s Will Justice was hurt. Thompson said he hopes that Justice’s being taken off the field by ambulance was just “cautionary.” Seconds later, Storm Wheeler blocked Shelby’s attempted PAT. On its next possession, Polk got a ten-yard keeper run from Jamal Wheeler, a first-down pass completion from Tanner Garrett to Dequan Gary, and a long run by Tyler Jackson, who made it to Shelby’s 22 and was one defender from going all the way.

Late in the third quarter, Jackson ran the ball in from the nine; Davis Derkach made the PAT, and Polk had 13 points. With 7:28 remaining in the game, Storm Wheeler, assisting teammate Khiree Green on a tackle of CJ Ross, picked the ball from Ross, and sprinted about 50 yards for another Polk score. The PAT closed the gap to 50-20, where it stood at game’s end. In the closing seconds, Green recovered a Shelby fumble, but the game ended before the Wolverines got a chance to take over.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Thompson reminded his players after the game. “It comes down to experience,” Thompson continued. “You have to (and will) get better. We’ll get there. I promise you.”

In addition to the unknown status of Justice, the Wolverines have to wait to learn more about a potential injury to Jordan Smith, whose starting status against Asheville this Friday is “doubtful.” Tryon Daily Bulletin will announce updates on both players.

Friday’s opening kickoff against Asheville will be 7:30 at Columbus.