Chupp’s end-zone tackle lifts Polk to Senior Night win

Published 10:00 pm Monday, October 31, 2016

Elijah Sutton (22) finds room to run in the fourth quarter of Friday’s win over visiting Owen Warhorses, 16-14. The full story of this “dogfight” of a game, starts on page 26.  (Photo by

Elijah Sutton (22) finds room to run in the fourth quarter of Friday’s win over visiting Owen Warhorses, 16-14. The full story of this “dogfight” of a game, starts on page 26. (Photo by

Polk County had already enjoyed success Friday night bringing defensive pressure from the outside against Owen sophomore quarterback Kendrick Weaver.

With the Warhorses facing a third-and-20 on their 10 late in the fourth quarter of a tie game, Wolverine defensive coordinator Mark Duncan decided it was time to call for more.

The plan worked perhaps better than Duncan ever expected.

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Senior Josh Chupp snared Weaver in the end zone, dragging down the quarterback for a safety that provided the winning points in Polk County’s 16-14 victory on Senior Night in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

Combined with the news that senior Brandon Bacher, injured during a third quarter kickoff, was alert and responsive, the closing minutes of the regular-season home finale couldn’t have gone much better for Polk County (5-5, 3-2), which improved its odds for a 2A playoff berth with the Western Highlands Conference victory.

“This helps reassure that we’re in the playoffs,” said Polk County head coach Jamie Thompson. “It’s a longstanding tradition here of making the playoffs, so that’s huge.”

Perhaps expecting an easy win against an Owen team that has struggled throughout the season, Polk County instead found itself in a dogfight against a Warhorse squad (1-9, 0-6) that played inspired throughout the evening, especially defensively, in its final game of the season.

Owen held Polk County to just 221 total yards of offense, including 140 yards rushing on 39 attempts. And when Wyatt Derkach’s 34-yard field goal attempt with four minutes remaining sailed just wide, Owen found itself with the ball, a tied game and a chance to end its season with an upset.

But Polk County’s defense instead delivered in the clutch. Plowing in from Weaver’s blind side, Luke Collins sacked the Owen quarterback on the Warhorses’ second play, pushing Owen back to the 10. That’s when Duncan decided to ratchet up the pressure.

“We expected him to sprint to his right, so we decided to call a blitz from the left,” Duncan said. “Chupp had been getting back there the entire time, so I thought, let’s try it again, let’s pin our ears back and go after it. It worked out.”

Lining up at end, Chupp quickly blew past the right tackle, corralling Weaver as he tried to spin away and dropping him deep in the end zone with 3:02 remaining.

There was more drama to come, though.

Forcing a Polk County punt, the Warhorses got the ball back at their 24 with 1:22 remaining. Weaver found Wahlid Kalhil open in the middle of the field on third down, moving Owen to the Polk 45, before scrambling 17 yards to the Polk 28.

With time running out and no timeouts remaining, Weaver then connected with Cyrus Hooper on a 10-yard completion, with Hooper going out of bounds at the Wolverine 18 with four seconds remaining.

The Warhorses lined up for a 35-yard field goal, but Graham Roy never got a chance to attempt it, the snap sailing wide of the holder. Roy fell on the ball as time ran out and Polk County began to celebrate.

“The defense played great all night,” Thompson said. “Besides the one drive and the long pass, we held them in check the rest of the night.

“Owen played tough. They played the best upfront that I’ve seen them play all year. They got after it.”

The Warhorses landed the first blow of the evening, scoring on their third play as Weaver hit a streaking Tyler Sexton for a 65-yard touchdown with 8:56 left in the first quarter. Jaymes Wingo blocked the extra point, leaving Owen with a 6-0 lead.

Unbowed, Polk immediately responded. A 42-yard Dillon Overholt pass to Wingo on the Wolverines’ first play moved Polk to the Owen 18, and Wingo plowed into the end zone from the 9 a few plays later. Derkach added the extra point for a 7-6 lead with 6:13 remaining in the first quarter.

The score remained that way until midway through the third period, when an Overholt interception and return gave the Wolverines the ball at the Owen 47. Elijah Sutton rumbled for 21 yards on first down, then added five more before Wingo tossed his third touchdown pass of the season on a halfback option play, finding Dillon Knighton all alone behind the Owen defense. The 27-yard pass play and Derkach’s extra point made it 14-6 with 6:39 remaining.

Polk has called the halfback option play four times this season. Wingo is 3-for-4 for 130 yards and three touchdowns running it.

Bacher was injured on the ensuing kickoff, the game stopped for several minutes as rescue personnel stabilized the Polk senior before taking him via ambulance to a nearby hospital. Once play resumed, Owen put together its best drive of the night, marching 60 yards in 10 plays.

Hooper scored on a 2-yard run with 41 seconds left in the third period, and Weaver tossed a 2-point conversion to Sexton to tie the game.

“I don’t care who you are, you can say you refocused after that emotional point, but saying it and doing it are two different things,” Thompson said. “I think on that drive what had happened (to Bacher) was in the back of the kids’ minds.”

Overholt finished with 51 yards rushing and threw for 54 yards on 5-of-12 attempts. Sutton rushed for 45 yards and Wingo finished with 38 yards rushing and 40 yards receiving for Polk, which will close its regular season next week at Hendersonville.

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