Long time rivals to meet Friday night

Published 9:47 pm Thursday, September 10, 2015

Polk's Khiree Green (5) and a Wolverine teammate are taking down R-S Central's quarterback Keith Ervin, in last Friday's game in Columbus. The Hilltoppers defeated Polk, 31-13.

Polk’s Khiree Green (5) and a Wolverine teammate are taking down R-S Central’s quarterback Keith Ervin, in last Friday’s game in Columbus. The Hilltoppers defeated Polk, 31-13.

Last week Polk suffers loss, Landrum racks up win

By Mark Schmerling

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A longstanding high school football rivalry continues this Friday evening, when the Polk County Wolverines (1-2) visit the Landrum Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium, with opening kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.


For Polk County High School head football coach Jamie Thompson, “The most important game is our next one.” The “next one” is tonight’s varsity contest against long-time rival Landrum.


“Landrum got a big win against Walhalla,” Thompson observed about last week’s game. “They’ve got a couple of receivers who are good,” Thompson noted of Anthony Anderson (12) and Kericho Mcauley (14). “Their quarterback (Peyton Kemmerlin) has a good arm.”


The Wolverines (1-2) can answer with running quarterback Jamal Wheeler (7), running back/receiver Storm Wheeler (4) and others. Each team has talented players who play both offense and defense.


“It’s a rivalry game,” Thompson said, “where emotions run high. Our goal is to keep our emotions in check, and finish.


Polk County and Landrum teams have been rivals since before Polk Central and Tryon High combined before the 1989 season.


Last week, Landrum gained its first win of the season Sept. 4, topping Walhalla, 33-24.


On the same day, Polk’s defense held R-S (Rutherfordton-Spindale) Central to a field goal, after snuffing a Hilltopper drive. Polk followed with a touchdown, and took a 7-3 lead into halftime. Unfortunately, R-S outscored Polk, 28-6 in the second half to take a 31-13 win back to Rutherfordton.


Inexperience has been the bane of the Wolverines, and, while they’re constantly improving, turnovers and penalties have cost possessions and yards.


Last Friday, after receiving the opening kickoff, the Wolverines advanced deep into R-S territory, but turned the ball over on downs at the visitors’ 21. Polk, in turn, with sharp defense, forced R-S to punt. When the Wolverines punted, R-S used a long pass completion to the Polk 20, and eventually took the ball to the five. From there, a five-yard penalty, plus stellar Polk defense forced the Hilltoppers to try a field goal in the opening seconds of the second quarter. The kick split the uprights, but the Wolverines had to feel good about holding R-S to a 3-0 lead.


Polk’s next possession, which included a long pass completion from Jamal Wheeler to Storm Wheeler, and post-catch yards by the latter, ended when the Wolverines lost a fumble deep in Hilltopper territory.


Once again, Polk’s defense forced R-S to punt, and the Wolverines were able to take advantage of good field position (starting from the R-S 40). Chandler Patrick took the ball to the 35. Two plays later, Jamal Wheeler, on a quarterback keeper ran to the 22 for a first down. Patrick carried the ball another four yards, before Wheeler hit Landon White at the R-S four. White’s fine catch gave Polk a first and goal. From there, Jamal Wheeler dashed in for a touchdown with 4:13 left in the first half.


Davis Derkach’s kick was good, and Polk would take that 7-3 lead into half time. Before the half ended, an R-S defender intercepted a Jamal Wheeler pass, but the Wolverines held off the Hilltoppers.


Polk’s second-half troubles included a Hilltopper touchdown pass completion with 7:19 left in the third quarter. It also included a knee injury to talented sophomore pass receiver/defender Dillon Overholt. Too much of R-S’s talented running back Tyrese Tate, and quarterback Keith Ervin, did not help either. Ervin scored on two quarterback keepers, while Tate burned up other critical yardage. After the Hilltopppers’ Austin Dorsey rushed for a TD, which (with the PAT) gave R-S a 31-7 lead, Chandler Patrick bulled in from the visitors’ five with just under three minutes left in the game. An R-S defender blocked Polk’s PAT attempt, giving the final score of 31-13.


“We get on a seven-game winning streak right now,” Polk head coach Jamie Thompson told his players after the game.


“I promise you,” he continued to his team, “this too will pass. The seven-game winning streak begins next week (this Friday, Sept. 11). I don’t have to tell you how big that Landrum game is . . . I love you,” Thompson said.


When Landrum’s varsity football team hosts its Polk County rivals this Friday evening the Cardinals know they can score points, having upended Walhalla, 33-24, last Friday.


“Hopefully, we can repeat that,” stated Landrum’s head coach Jason Farmer. “Polk’s got a really good defense. Coach Thompson is doing a really good job.”


“Winning helps the confidence,” Farmer observed.


However, when it comes to rivalries, “records are out the window,” Farmer noted. “It’s going to be who wants it most. We’ve got a tough job in stopping Jamal Wheeler.” Farmer labeled him “One of the best I’ve seen in a long time.”


“We’re excited about the opportunity. I’m sure Polk is excited about it. That’s what high school rivalries are all about,” said Farmer.


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