Lights-out effort propels Polk County to season-opening victory
Published 7:24 pm Saturday, August 20, 2022
The party was over well before they turned out the lights.
Four first-half takeaways plus five touchdowns from your standout senior usually equals a formula for a victory. That equation certainly held true Friday for Polk County as the Wolverines claimed a 42-28 win at Newton-Conover.
Something tripped the lights in the Red Devils’ Gurley Stadium with 3:28 remaining, plunging the field into total darkness. Fans lit cell phones and patiently waited for illumination to return, but all that was left to be seen was the size of the final margin.
Newton-Conover scored twice in the final 90 seconds to make that picture a bit brighter for the home side. It did not dim the Wolverines’ joy in any manner.
“Awfully proud of this group,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “I told our players the Wolverines win openers, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Angus Weaver had the five touchdowns – three of those on pass receptions – and also surpassed 3,000 rushing yards for his career on a first-quarter run. But Weaver was not the only standout among the 24 players that the Wolverines dressed:
- Antonio Simpson proved nearly unstoppable. He had eight pass receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. He had two sacks, one of those forcing a fumble that led to Polk’s first touchdown, and disrupted Red Devil efforts throughout the evening.
- Casey Beiler threw for 167 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, no interceptions.
- Lawson Carter stopped a Newton-Conover drive with an end-zone interception. Vincent Twitty set up a Polk score with another pick. And Evan Jones, in the first game of his life, grabbed another interception and also had two pass receptions for 18 yards.
- Obed Najera recovered the fumble that Simpson created and helped anchor the small but determined group of Wolverine linemen that played both ways.
“The few, the proud, the Wolverines,” Ollis said. “We know we’re a little bit short numbers-wise, but there’s just those 11 on the field. The kids played awfully hard tonight and executed well.”
Simpson’s forced fumble came on the Red Devils’ opening possession and gave Polk the ball at the Newton 21. The Wolverines scored on their third play, Beiler tossing a seven-yard strike to Simpson in the back of the end zone for a 6-0 lead.
As happened last year in the season opener between these two teams, Newton-Conover lost starting quarterback Aiden Luangkhot to an injury in the first quarter. His final play preceded a punt that preceded Polk’s best drive of the night, a 13-play, 86-yard slog that took almost six minutes. Beiler threw a nine-yard scoring pass to Weaver to end it, and Weaver’s two-point conversion made it 14-0 with 11:28 left in the second period.
Twitty’s interception and return late in the second quarter set up the Wolverines at the Newton-Conover 16, and Beiler hit Weaver with a throwback screen pass for 12 yards and a touchdown with 1:06 remaining, upping the lead to 21-0.
The Wolverines then took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 63 yards in four plays, keyed by Beiler’s 46-yard pass to Simpson. Weaver plunged in from two yards out to cap the possession and give Polk a 28-0 advantage that felt game-deciding. It was.
Newton-Conover scored late in the third quarter and three times in a wild final period during which the teams combined for 35 points. Fourteen of those came for the Red Devils in the final 1:18 as Polk shuffled everyone on its bench into the game.
“The end of the game got a little bit weird, but 42 to 28 is a W,” Ollis said.
“You take the ball away, you’re going to win, and we made some great plays in the secondary. We took some scoring opportunities away from them and we took advantage of those.”
The Wolverines return next Friday to G.M. Tennant Stadium for their home opener, a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Christ School. The Greenies dropped a 10-6 decision to Charlotte Latin on Friday.