Wolverines’ great effort comes up one point shy vs. Mitchell’s Mountaineers

Published 10:02 pm Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Wolverines' Jamal Wheeler (#7) has just collared Mitchell ball carrier Braxton Tehandon, and is about to tackle him in last Thursday's contest, which Mitchell won, 28-21. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

The Wolverines’ Jamal Wheeler (#7) has just collared Mitchell ball carrier Braxton Tehandon, and is about to tackle him in last Thursday’s contest, which Mitchell won, 28-21. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

Somewhere in the world, the sun was shining brightly last Thursday evening, Polk Daylight Time. It even seemed to brighten the early night sky during part of the last quarter of the Polk/Mitchell varsity football game.

But, alas, it hid, and seemed to take the Wolverines’ last chance with it, as the Mountaineers managed to eke out a 28-27 win over a fired-up Polk team.

The Wolverines (now 3-5 overall, and 1-2 in Western Highlands conference action) actually played a fine game against the Mountaineers (now 7-0 overall, and 2-0 in the WHC), who had not scored fewer than 40 points in a game this year, and whose previous closest game was a 42-20 win over Owen.

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Had the visitors not blocked two extra point kick attempts by the Wolverines, Polk would have claimed the one-point win.

The evening began in a festive manner with television coverage by Fox 40 out of Greenville, S.C., in the first high school football game in Western North Carolina to be televised.

Mitchell took the opening kickoff, and using some running by Cy Thomas, and key pass receptions by Justin Greene and Alex McKinney (the latter in Polk’s end zone with 7:05 left in the first quarter).

The Mountaineers were on the board first, but Polk also moved the ball, starting with Storm Wheeler’s good kickoff return, and runs by Jamal Wheeler and Khiree Green (whose ten-yard carry gave Polk a first down at the Mountaineer 19. Storm Wheeler carried to the 12. From there, Jaymes Wingo crashed through would-be tacklers to score. This PAT attempt split the uprights, and the game was tied, 7-7.

On their next possession, the Mountaineers advanced to the Polk two, before Peyton Green slipped between tacklers to score. Mitchell’s kick was good and they led, 14-7.

Once again, Polk moved the ball well. Jamal Wheeler’s pass to J.D. Edwards put the Wolverines on the Mountaineer 23, but a fumble on the exchange on the next play put the ball in Mitchell’s hands.

The Mountaineers’ big plays on that possession included an 18-yard run by quarterback Ben Young to the Polk eight, and then Young’s eight-yard run for another TD. A straight PAT kick put Mitchell up, 21-7, halfway through the second quarter.

An apparent Mitchell touchdown on a pass to Tre Carson was called back on a Mountaineer penalty. Jamal Wheeler leaped high to intercept a Ben Young pass near the Polk goal line, and streaked to midfield before being forced out of bounds.

The clock brought the half to a close before Polk could score, leaving Mitchell ahead, 21-7.

Things were about to change.

J.D. Edwards covered Mitchell’s second-half opening kickoff at the Polk 39. Facing a fourth and nine at his own 40, Jamal Wheeler ran the ball to Mitchell’s 42 for a Polk first down. Carries by Jamal Wheeler, Shakur Wingo, Jaymes Wingo and Green took the ball to Mitchell’s four. From there, Jamal Wheeler dived into the end zone, cutting Mitchell’s lead to 21-13. A Mitchell player was able to crash through and block Polk’s PAT kick attempt, holding the score at 21-13.

Mitchell was able to take Polk’s kickoff to its 42, but Khiree Green recovered a loose ball near midfield, and Polk was on the move again. Storm Wheeler’s pass reception gave Polk a first down at the visitors’ 40. On that drive, just after the start of the fourth quarter, Jamal Wheeler all but flew down the right side for a Wolverine touchdown. Wheeler’s pass to Josh Chupp was good for two points, and the game was suddenly tied at 21.

Polk players and fans were all charged up.

A great tackle by Jaymes Wingo put the Mountaineers in a fourth and five at their own 27, forcing the guests to punt. Polk’s outlook brightened considerably as Jamal Wheeler broke loose for a long run. A few plays later, the snap went over Wheeler’s head, but he reversed himself, found his lead, and blazed into Mitchell’s end zone to put the Wolverines ahead, 27-21. A post-TD penalty put the ball on Mitchell’s 17 for the Polk PAT kick attempt. Again, a Mitchell player blocked the kick, holding Polk to a six-point lead.

Polk players and fans smelled blood, but any hopes of the Wolverines wearing out their visitors faded when carries by Young and a four-yard TD run by Dalton Beaver tied the game at 27. Mitchell’s PAT kick was good, and the Mountaineers had squeaked ahead, 28-27.

Polk was again able to move the ball, but not far enough, and turned it over on downs, to Mitchell, with the Mountaineers letting the clock run out, and escaping with a one-point win.

“We’re being prepared for something,” Polk head coach Jamie Thompson told his players after the contest. “Things are starting to click,” Thompson continued.

“I know you’re hurt. You fought your butts off. I’m proud of you. I love you.”

Thompson’s comments to the press were similar.

“We’re being prepared for something great,” he said. “We’ve got to get on a streak, and follow it into the playoffs . . . the experience from this will help us down the road.”

This Friday (Oct. 16), the Wolverines travel clear to Avery County, to meet the 1-6 Vikings, who lost to Hendersonville, 39-30, on Oct. 9. Opening kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.