BENTON — When the dozen Polk County seniors walk off the football field for the final time in 2012 it may not be with a state championship, but it will certainly be with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
The group of Justin Green, Matthew Triplett, Justin Brown, Duncan Coffey, Aaron Caldwell, Marcus Green, Caleb Bramlett, Matthew Wilson, Samuel Bishop, Matthew Bishop, Seth Bishop and Jordan Senn not only finished up the regular season as district 5-AA champions, the 40-20 win over Meigs County completed a run of 16 straight district victories for the departing seniors.
This is no small accomplishment for any team in any district in the state according to Wildcats coach Derrick Davis.
"To win 16 district games, I know other teams have done it before, is pretty neat. To be able to go 16-0 in your high school career and be able to say you never lost one is an accomplishment," Davis said of the group's achievement.
"Our district is not like Alcoa or CAK (Christian Academy of Knoxville), but it is a hard thing to do. You've got weather, maybe some bad calls and bad breaks. District games are the ones you absolutely have to win and you know you are getting the best effort by whoever you are playing."
The streak enjoyed by the Polk seniors began in 2009 when they stepped onto the field as Wildcat freshmen. The district had some pretty good teams push the 'Cats, but through it all, the victories mounted.
"We were 11-1 that year," Davis recalled. "It started there. This group saw what those seniors did and carried it on from there."
There have been tough battles along the way and this year's win over the seriously improved Sequoyah Chiefs was one Davis was concerned about.
"This year the Sequoyah game was big, particularly because some people, the "experts," thought this was the year we were going to go down. They were 6-1 coming in an very much improved," Davis said of the big win. "In 2009, their freshman year against McMinn Central sticks out."
There was not much need for Davis to be worried about in the end. The Wildcats mercy ruled the Chargers 49-12.
"They went on to see some pretty good games that year as freshmen and a lot of them played as sophomores," he said.
Putting together a string of 16 wins may not carry a tremendous amount of weight with the Polk seniors at the moment. But Davis feels as time goes by, they will begin to recall the years with more and more favor.
"It may not mean too much to them right now. They may not have thought about it much. But, 10 or 15 years down the road they can be bragging to somebody and tell them back in the day we were good. I have found out that players get a whole lot better as they get older," Davis said with a laugh. "But it is something they will always have and won't have to embellish. I hope they come back in 10 years and we can honor their legacy."
The Wildcats started thinking about the streak when they starting working on finishing the 2011 season undefeated.
"Last year we got to thinking they could go 12-0 in the district. We kind of picked up on it at the end of last year. We lost some good players like we do every year and it was a goal this year. We finished perfect in the district three straight years and set the goal to finish perfect four straight times," said the coach.
Davis said he kept pretty quiet about the streak until the Sequoyah game. It was then he used the unbeaten run as a motivational tool.
"That was the first time I brought it up this year," he said.
The dozen seniors have not all been starters for the Wildcats, but all have chipped in no small amount of hard work and sweat in an effort to help the entire roster claim a fourth straight district championship.
"There are a few that may have come out in the spring after their freshman year and they all haven't played as far as starting. But, they have all contributed in their own way. It's been a good group to have for four years," Davis said with typical Polk County pride.