VONORE — Coach Derrick Davis finally allowed himself to take a breath after Tanner Plemons intercepted a Sequoyah pass late in the fourth quarter to ultimately preserve a 21-14 Polk County win over the Chiefs Friday evening.
The game-saving play by the Polk defensive lineman put the final exclamation point on a game neither team dominated, save for the Wildcats’ 96-yard drive for a touchdown on their opening possession.
“It was a one touchdown game in the second half. Field position was bad for us the whole second half. We finally managed to get it out toward midfield a little bit and we hit a pass,” said a tired and relieved Davis after his Wildcats had headed to the dressing room. “It goes without saying we have struggled a little bit throwing the ball, but we made a play when it counted. Then we had an interception by a defensive lineman that pretty much sealed it for us.”
Seventh-ranked (3A) Polk looked crisp and ready to play on its opening drive of game starting deep in Wildcat territory at the 4-yard line. Led by senior quarterback Josh Sillas, Polk set off on a 17-play drive that ate up 8:45 of the first quarter.
Stalwart fullback Zach Miller carried 11 times and broke free for 22 yards sixth play of the drive. Sillas later connected with Chris Wimberley for 22 more yards to the Chiefs’ 20. From there Miller and Wimberley did the job on the ground with Miller carrying the final yard for the score.
Sequoyah answered on its next possession to make it a 7-6 game after a missed extra point attempt.
After being forced to punt the ball away, the Polk defense stiffened and took possession at its own 30-yard line after holding the Chiefs on a fourth-and-7.
Taking over with 5:29 left on the clock, Sillas guided the Wildcats using the legs of Wimberley and Miller to the Chief’s 7-yard line. From there Sillas found Blake Cross in the end zone for the TD. Reno Wimberley made it 14-6 with the PAT.
Both teams fumbled away potential chances in the third quarter with the Chiefs taking the biggest hurt after the ball came loose at the Wildcats’ 1-yard line, killing what could have been the tying score.
The Chiefs made up for the miscue on their next possession after forcing a Polk punt and taking over on the Wildcats’ 34. Sequoyah quarterback Brett King raced 20 yards to the end zone for the Chiefs then hooked up with Rueben Abernathy for the two-point conversion to tie the game, 14-14.
“Sequoyah got the momentum in the fourth quarter and they were cranked. They are a good team. They are big and have speed. This is the best Sequoyah team we’ve played since we started playing them and that’s been quite a few years,” said Davis. “It is a sense of relief for me to get out of here with a win, but then all of them are. I’m glad to get a road win, too.”
After forcing another Polk County punt, Sequoyah was unable to take advantage of the new-found momentum and the drive stalled when King was sacked for an 8-yard loss on a fourth-and-6 conversion at the Polk 36.
From there, the Wildcats took advantage of the Sequoyah secondary to take the lead for good. After a three-yard Wimberley run, Sillas found Devin Weber who slipped out of the Polk backfield. Sillas connected with the wide open Weber who raced untouched to the end zone on the 61-yard pitch and catch. The extra point put the Wildcats on top 21-14 with 7:14 left in the game.
“They were in man-to-man coverage and we slipped somebody out of the backfield and they didn’t have anybody on him,” recalled Davis. “You have to give Sillas credit. Devin (Weber) was our last progression and Sillas looked there and found him and he was wide open. Sillas did all the little things to throw a good pass. Give Weber credit, too. He had to wait on it a little bit and then got in.”
With the Chiefs looking to mount a tying drive, Polk defensive tackle Tanner Plemons stepped up big to kill a chance of a Sequoyah comeback. Plemons stepped in front of a Chief’s screen pass to kill what remained of any Sequoyah momentum.
“Coach has been coaching hard about screens and knowing where you are. If you are going to do something make something out of it. The ball came right to me, I’ll take it. That play pretty much turned it around. I lucked up and got the ball. Honestly, I fell down on the play. I got held and I spun around, the next thing I knew I was up and heard they guys yelling screen. I started sprinting and the ball came right to me,” said Plemons who was quick to credit his Wildcat teammates.
“It just so happened it was me. There’s not a lot times that happens. I have to give credit to Zach (Miller), our whole offensive line and our defensive backfield. When it came down to it they were there making the big plays and we came out on top.”
The win puts the Wildcats in the District 5-AA driver’s seat at 2-0 and 5-1 overall.
“I’m proud of them. The biggest thing is it’s a district win and it puts us in even better shape as far as our goal of a district championship. But, there is still a lot of football to be played,” said Davis. “I’m proud of them. Maybe we can keep building on this.”