Despite a lengthy 90-minute delay due to lightning early in the game, the Wildcats stayed hot and cruised to a 46-14 win over their District 5-AA rivals.
After their first 0-2 start in head coach Derrick Davis’ reign, this game would show their metal as a team and has the potential to get the Wildcats’ season back on track.
“These kids have worked hard and deserved [the win]. I think some people questioned their heart and ‘want to,’ ” stated Davis. “We came out, took care of business pretty early and didn’t let them hang around, not to mention we corrected a lot of our mistakes.”
The Wildcats had been plagued by small mental mistakes, penalties and blocking errors during their first two games against Bradley Central and Chattanooga Central, Davis had mentioned earlier in the week.
“I don’t think we even had any penalties tonight, as far as our varsity is concerned. We tackled better, and I thought we blocked better. Those are the things we worked on this week, and these guys stepped up,” Davis said.
When the game started, the Wildcats showed plenty of heart. Multiple facets of the Wildcat running game saw success, plus the starting defense held the Chargers to just a single first down in the first half.
Polk came out of the gate with fire in their bellies, forcing a three-and-out on Central’s initial drive. The Big Red offense then took just three plays, highlighted by a 59-yard bulldozing run by Derrick Saxe, before Duncan Coffey ran the ball in from seven out for the first strike of the game.
In a gutsy move, Davis took advantage of Central’s habit of lining up 15 yards back from the kickoff and called for a successful on-side kick.
The ensuing drive, aided by a pair of Central penalties, culminated with a quaterback sweep by Al Akins which went 30 yards to paydirt.
After Saxe bulled in for the two-point conversion, the Wildcats found themselves up 14-0 with 6:09 still to play in the first quarter.
Then the game came to a screeching halt. A thunderstorm moved into the area, and when lighting streaked the sky, play was suspended and the players were herded back into the fieldhouse, in accordance with TSSAA rules.
Davis and the Wildcats spent the lengthy delay discussing tactics and trying to maintain focus as heavy rains and thunder sounded outside the locker rooms.
When play resumed, questions of Wildcat momentum were quickly laid to rest as the defense posted another quick three-and-out before Polk’s Chris Wimberley returned the ensuing punt 61 yards, all the way to Central’s end zone with 4:04 left to play in the opening quarter.
Wimberley dominated the Charger’s special teams unit all evening. In total, he put up 120 punt return yards, including a 40-yard dash on the very next punt that put the Wildcats in the red zone yet again.
It only took Saxe two consecutive carries to cover the 16 yards and find the Charger end zone putting the Wildcats up 27-0 with 2:04 still left in the first period.
During Polk’s first possession of the second quarter, a 10 play drive almost stalled on the Chargers 28-yard line. Facing a forth-and-4 the Wildcats put the ball in the hands of running back Justin Green who got a little bit more than a first down, taking the ball all 28 yards over the goal line.
Akins tacked on a 1-yard keep for the final touchdown of the opening half as the Wildcats found themselves going into the locker room with a 40-0 lead.
When the teams took the field for the second half the mercy rule was in effect. Davis used the opportunity to work his depth chart and give back-up players game experience.
“We got a lot kids in the game. Some of them are not ready to step-up, but we are trying to build depth for the rest of the season ... We got some guys in and are going to watch some film to see how they did,” Davis said.
Sophomore quarterback Josh Sillas made the most of his first series, running the ball 79 yards to paydirt, putting up another Polk score only two minutes into the second half.
Central started to find some of their stride against the younger Polk defenders in the forth quarter, relying heavily on the legs of Denzel Boyd.
Boyd led the Chargers down field twice, both possessions resulting in touchdowns. But, the deficit was far too much for Central to overcome and the game ended with a solid 32-point Polk lead.
“It was a little disappointing to let them score two times late, but on the flip side a lot [of our guys] got in and gained some experience,” said Davis.
Despite an 0-2 start, the win Friday night put Polk were they want to be in the division, 1-0.
“What was so important about this one was that it was a district game. So we are still in the thick of the district race ... [The win] feels great, and we just need to build on what we did tonight,” Davis explained.
The Polk County Wildcats will see their next action at home Friday night against Chattanooga Christian, who is coming off a big win against Notre Dame.
McMinn Central 0 0 0 14 — 14
Polk County 27 13 6 0 — 46
PC — Duncan Coffey 7 run (kick failed), 8:52
PC — Alex Akins 31 run (Derrick Saxe run), 6:09
PC — Chris Wimberley 61 punt return (kick blocked), 4:04
PC — Saxe 4 run (Joseph Flores kick), 2:04
PC — Justin Green 28 run (kick blocked), 5:13
PC — Akins 1 run (Flores kick), 0:12
PC — Josh Silas 79 run (kick failed), 10:01
MC — Gage Johnson 7 run (Dylan Cochran kick), 8:15
MC — Denzel Boyd 2 run (Cochran kick), 3:52
First downs 8 10
Rushes-Yards 41-116 33-282
Passing 24 7
Total Yards 145 289
Comp-Att-Int 5-10-0 1-4-0
Punts-Avg. 6-27.2 2-44.5
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 4-1
Penalties-Yards 5-23 1-5
Rushing: Saxe 11-106, Akins 6-46 (PC); Boyd 17-102 (MC).
Passing: Akins 1-4-0 7 (PC); Levi Holley 5-10-0 24 (MC).
Receiving: Collin Wimberley 1-7 (PC); Boyd 3-16 (MC).
Other Standouts: Chris Wimberley 120 punt return yards (PC).
Records: McMinn Central 0-3, 0-1 District 5-AA; Polk County 1-2, 1-0 District 5-AA.