Wolverines deliver resounding win in Fry’s head coaching debut
Published 11:05 am Sunday, August 20, 2023
Perhaps the only other thing that Dustin Fry wished would have been intercepted Friday was the postgame ice bath he received.
Then again, that drenching and the celebration that followed undoubtedly felt all too good.
Polk County brought a penchant for thievery to G.M. Tennant Stadium, intercepting four passes to spark a 33-7 victory over Madison in the Wolverines’ home and season opener.
Loreynzo Sanchez returned one of those thefts 93 yards for a touchdown, a momentum-changing moment when it seemed Madison might be poised to at least halve a 12-point Polk County lead. Instead, the Wolverines upped the margin to 19 at halftime, added an early score in the third period and focused on keeping the Patriots in check and outlasting a round of cramps that slowed the rest of the evening.
It all led to that chilly soaking for Fry, who made his Polk County head coaching debut a successful one and didn’t even seem to mind the purposeful hugs that assistant coaches Jamie Thompson and Thomas Hensley supplied before the drenching.
“A lot of good and, just like a first game, a whole lot to clean up,” Fry said. “In college, it’s a 24-hour rule. We’ll go a 48-hour rule and enjoy this Saturday and Sunday, then flush it on Monday. We’re back to trying to be 1-0 again next week.
“I’m happy. I’m happy that we got the first win and now we’ve just got to get a lot better between now and next Friday.”
Madison (0-1) had its chances to perhaps keep the game closer, seeing four drives inside the Polk 30 end without points. None proved more pivotal than the Patiots’ possession late in the second quarter.
Trailing 19-7 after Polk freshman Styler Blackwell scored on a 23-yard run, Madison methodically marched into the red zone, relying on the legs of Levi Shelton to do so. The Patriots, though, faced a 3rd-and-13 at the 23 and opted to go to the air, only to see Sanchez leap in front of targeted receiver Drake Marshall, snare Dallas Bartlett’s pass and weave his way through defenders on the Polk side of the field and to the end zone. Billy Booker’s extra point gave the Wolverines a 26-7 advantage with 3:15 remaining in the half.
“That was huge,” Fry said. “Any time you score on defense, your percentage of winning goes way up. When we can win the turnover margin, we’ll have a good opportunity to win each week.”
Polk scored on its first possession of the second half on a Sanchez 9-yard run, capping a four-play, 58-yard possession highlighted by Antonio Simpson’s 20-yard catch and run. Madison coaches no doubt were glad to see the last of Simpson at game’s end as the senior tormented the Patriots throughout the evening on both sides of the ball.
His 4-yard catch on a fade route late in the first quarter gave the Wolverines their first lead. On Polk’s next possession, Simpson leaped to catch a Lawson Carter pass down the middle of the field, shook off a defender and ran past the remainder of Madison’s secondary, completing a 73-yard play for another score and a 12-0 Polk lead.
Madison answered with a quick eight-play, 65-yard drive ending in Gavin Gault’s 35-yard touchdown reception, but back came the Wolverines. Nolan Simpson delivered a 41-yard catch-and-run before Blackwell collected his first varsity score, bouncing outside right tackle and bowling over a defender at the goal line. Booker’s extra point made it 19-7 with 8:15 left in the first half.
With Antonio Simpson a constant presence in the Patriot backfield and the four interceptions, the Patriots wouldn’t get any closer.
Carter had an efficient outing in his first varsity start, completing 9-of-12 passes for 169 yards and two scores. He also ran for 40 yards. Sanchez had 79 yards on 11 carries and Blackwell had 49 on 10.
“I didn’t necessarily expect us to run the ball as well as we did,” Fry said. “I was really happy with how our tight ends blocked. Bryson Jones and Zalen (McCraw) did a great job getting in there and doing things. I’m excited with the way Styler ran the ball and how he played. And obviously, you love what Tony brings.
“Saw some good things on defense. We’ve just got to be a little bit better and be more disciplined on some things.”
Polk County will now gear up for a talented Tuscola squad, which will visit Tennant Stadium on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.