Oh, so close all night long for Polk

Published 7:34 pm Sunday, October 4, 2015


Mountain Heritage quarterback Trey Robinson (#15) is a fine runner, but here, Polk County's Jaymes Wingo (#1) ambushes him, and with the help of Storm Wheeler (#4), takes down Robinson. In the end, Mountain Heritage was able to squeak by Polk, 26-25, on Oct. 2 at North Buncombe High School's artificial-turf field. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

Mountain Heritage quarterback Trey Robinson (#15) is a fine runner, but here, Polk County’s Jaymes Wingo (#1) ambushes him, and with the help of Storm Wheeler (#4), takes down Robinson. In the end, Mountain Heritage was able to squeak by Polk, 26-25, on Oct. 2 at North Buncombe High School’s artificial-turf field. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

One needed no scoreboard to figure the outcome of the Polk/Mountain Heritage varsity football game played Friday at North Buncombe High School. One needed only to view Wolverine head coach Jamie Thompson’s dismayed expression, which indicated that Polk came up short.

In fact, it was just one point short, 26-25, as the Mountain Heritage Cougars barely made a two-point conversion late in the game, while Polk (3-4) fell a disappointing yard short in a similar effort just after that.

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Possible welcome news for the Wolverines is that while they fell to 1-1 in the Western Highlands conference on Friday, no other WHC team has won two games to this point.

That might have changed last night (Monday, Oct. 5) as Hendersonville carried a 1-0 WHC mark into its game at Madison County. Results were not available at press time.

North Buncombe officials welcomed Polk and Mountain Heritage to NB’s artificial-turf field, which drains more reliably than the Cougars’ grass field, where the game was initially to be played.

Rain was light on Friday evening, and turf conditions were indeed better for running, but rain-slicked footballs were an issue.

Neither team scored in the first quarter, each team turning the ball over on downs more than once, but wet ball surface worked against a couple of intended Polk receivers, who were unable to surround well-thrown passes by Jamal Wheeler.

Early in the second quarter, ground gains by Jamal Wheeler, Khiree Green (who rambled for multiple 15-plus-yard gains on the night) and Shakur Wingo, moved the ball for Polk, until an errant snap and an eventual covering of the ball by a Cougar player, gave the Cougars possession at Polk’s 40.

Trey Robinson, the Cougars’ explosive quarterback, streaked for 28 yards to Polk’s 12. Just after that, another Robinson, Dathan, covered the 12 yards for the Cougars’ first score. Polk’s defense bent, but did not break, keeping each Robinson under 100 yards rushing on the night.

Mountain Heritage tried a two-point conversion, but Polk’s defense held, and the score, with the second quarter about half complete, was 6-0, Cougars.

The Cougars added another TD later in the first half, but again, failed to make the two-point conversion, taking a 12-0 lead.

However, shortly after returning the Cougar kickoff to his own 35, Jamal Wheeler hit Storm Wheeler for a passing gain near the Mountain Heritage 40. From 33 yards out, Wheeler galloped into the end zone, just as time ran out in the first half. Davis Derkach drilled the PAT for a point, and Polk was within six points with 24 minutes of play remaining.

Polk, which elected to kick off to start the contest, received the second-half kickoff, a bounder, which Jamal Wheeler returned to Polk’s 38. Jamal Wheeler’s pass to Josh Chupp took the Wolverines to the Cougar 40, before Wheeler found Wyatt Derkach in the end zone, and hit him for a second Polk TD. Derkach surrounded Wheelers offering, and held on.

Polk’s PAT kick was good, and the Wolverines enjoyed their first lead of the evening, at 13-12.

Though Storm Wheeler sacked Trey Robinson, Robinson responded with a third-quarter 14-yard TD run. Once again, Polk denied the Cougars any more points, and the hosts led, 18-13.

Mountain Heritage’s kickoff was another bouncer, which Chupp covered at his own 36. Runs by Jamal Wheeler, Green and Jaymes Wingo took the ball to the Cougar 27 at the third-quarter’s end.

Facing a third and five from the Cougar ten, Jamal Wheeler stole into the end zone for his second TD of the evening. An incomplete pass on the two-point try kept the Wolverines ahead by just a point at 19-18.

Only an open field tackle by Davis Derkach at the Wolverine 19 stopped the Cougars’ Weston Dayton from scoring on the Polk kickoff. However, even with a defensive pass interference call against them, the Wolverines held off the Cougars, who had advanced to Polk’s five.

However, with just eight minutes remaining in the game, Trey Robinson scored on an eight-yard keeper. On the two-point try, Robinson somehow managed to elude some would-be tacklers, and hit a receiver in the end zone. Score: Cougars 26, Polk 19.

Following the tradition of no Polk team surrendering, Jamal Wheeler guided his team quickly downfield from the Polk 24.

A Wheeler pass completion to Chupp, and the latter’s run to the Polk 39 gave the Wolverines more breathing room, and a first down. Jamal Wheeler hit Jaymes Wingo at midfield for another first down. The big play on that drive was a Jamal Wheeler to Josh Chupp connection at the Cougar four. From there, Jaymes Wingo carried the goods into the end zone, with under one minute left in the game.

Would Polk settle for the tie in uncertain conditions, or go for two pints and a probable win?

Thompson, whose team had already come back multiple times on the evening, called for the two-point play. Jamal Wheeler’s pitch to Shakur Wingo looked like a sure two-point score, but Wingo and the ball were stopped an agonizing yard short.

With about 43 seconds left in the game, the Wolverines had one more trick up their sleeve— a squib kickoff and a Polk takeover. It very nearly worked, as Jamal Wheeler both guided the squib kick, and fell on it, maybe a foot short of the requisite ten yards from the kicking point. It, like everything else that evening, was oh, so close.

The ball went to the Cougars, who let the clock run out.

This week, it’ll be Thursday night football for the Wolverines, who host conference rival Mitchell, in front of the Fox 40 TV cameras, the first televised high school football game in Western North Carolina starting at 7 p.m.