In a battle of state-ranked teams, fourth-ranked Polk had just beaten No. 9 Tyner in an 18-13 fight-to-the-finish in Round 1 of the TSSAA Class 3-A state playoffs and the Wildcats were savoring Davis’ first-ever win over the Rams.
“I have never been a part of beating those guys. My dad beat them once in the early ’90s but they were a thorn in our side when they were in our region. We finished second to them three or four times,” said an emotionally drained Davis. “There is nobody I respect more than (Tyner coach) Wayne Turner and to be able to come away with a win is really gratifying.”
Davis was particularly proud of the play of the Wildcats’ defense. The Polk barricade stepped up big on five crucial occasions with fourth down stops and an interception, beginning with Tyner’s second possession of the game.
Alex Akins broke up a long fourth-and 25 pass that gave Polk the ball at midfield. The turnover set up an eight-play drive that put the Wildcats up 6-0 on a 17-yard Tyler Lee touchdown run. Polk struggled in the point after department missing on 3-of-3 tries.
“I would have to say that was one of the better defensive performances against a quality opponent that I have been a part of,” Davis praised. “I can’t say enough about their preparation this past week.”
The Rams also were proved to be more than a handful defensively. Tyner held Polk to 170 yards on the ground and only five in the air.
“Both defenses played pretty well. We have been averaging a lot of points. It was frustrating offensively at times tonight trying to call plays and Tyner had a lot to do with it. That was the toughest defense we have faced and it was hard to get something going,” said an appreciative Davis. “We just seemed to make a few more plays on defense than they did.”
Tyner’s first score came after a short Polk County punt set the Rams up on the Wildcats’ 20-yard line. Dameian Suttles’ 7-yard run gave Tyner a 7-6 lead after the extra point.
The Polk County defense went back to work and a fourth-and-6 Travis Jones pass was broken up by Christian Passmore. The Wildcats stepped up big again on the Rams’ next possession with a stop on fourth-and-7 just before the half.
“You cannot afford to take a play off with those guys. The film we watched on them did not do them justice. They are a very good football team,” said Davis.
After forcing the Wildcats to punt to open the third quarter, the Rams were forced to do the same on their first possession of the second half. Akins continued his superlative play for Polk with a 52-yard return to the Tyner 4-yard line. After a loss of two, quarterback Jared Allen found a diving Lee just inside the end zone to put the Wildcats up 12-7.
Polk opened the fourth quarter with a punt that pinned the Rams on their own 8-yard line. Two plays later Derrick Saxe stepped in front of a Tyner pass and returned the interception 12 yards, diving into the endzone to give Polk County an 18-7 lead with 8:31 left to play.
The Rams rallied right back on their ensuing custody and again found themselves facing a fourth-and-long situation. This time quarterback Jones slipped tackles and scrambled before heaving a bomb to Tevin Cowan for a 31-yard gain to the Polk 13.
“It was fourth down and he scrambles and hits that one down there that keeps them going. Tevin Cowan can go up and get it. Al is a good defensive back, but he just pulled the ball down,” said an admiring Davis. “It felt like the clock was counting up instead of down.”
Jones ended the drive with an eight-yard pass to Sean Neal. The point after attempt missed and the Wildcats held the 18-13 lead with 4:17 remaining.
The Rams came back with an onside kick recovered by Polk. From there, the Wildcats picked up a big first down with 2:24 remaining and were able to run the clock to zeros and preserved the win.
“The punt return was the spark and the interception really locked it up for us,” Davis reiterated. “Our offense also made two or three first downs that really kept us in the game and kept us from having to punt. I was so scared to punt it to them.”
“They are good. I don’t know if people really understand,” he emphasized. “Those guys are the district champs out of 6-AA and that includes Red Bank, Chattanooga Central and Howard. To be able to do what we did is great.”
Davis lauded his team for their preparation and dedication to the season. He added the Wildcats have a sense getting down to business when the time comes.
“I’m so happy for these guys. This is a good group. They have been willing to put in the time and prepare. They know the difference between fun time — and we have had that — and work time. They really do. They’ve got that switch that goes on when it needs to. You’ve got to have both. We can kid around and they can kid me. But they know. I guess they’ve got a sense for when it’s time for work,” he said.
Polk will put its 10-game winning streak on the line Friday night with a road trip to third-ranked Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK). Both teams are 10-1 with the Wildcats loss coming the first week of the season to 11th-ranked (Class 6A) Bradley Central, while CAK fell to top-ranked Alcoa in the regular season finale.
CAK advanced to the second round of the playoffs with its second victor of the year over Kingston, this one by a 33-6 score Friday night.
Tyner 0 7 0 6 – 13
Polk County 6 0 6 6 – 18
PC – Tyler Lee 17 run (kick failed), 4:25
T – Dameian Suttles 7 run (Eric Drake kick), 11:37
PC – Lee 6 pass from Jared Allen (2-point try failed), 6:47
PC – Coty Farmer 12 interception return (2-point try failed), 8:31
T – Sean Neal 8 pass from Travis Jones (kick Failed), 4:17
First downs 12 11
Rushes-Yards 41-156 43-165
Passing 122 5
Total yards 278 170
Comp-Att-Int 8-19-1 1-5-1
Punts-Avg. 3-35.7 5-30.2
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 7-55 3-37
Rushing: Travis Jones 9-47, Sean Neal 8-32 (TA); Jared Allen
17-80, Derrick Saxe 14-48, Tyler Lee 9-32 (PC).
Passing: Travis Jones 8-17-1, 122 (TA); Allen 1-3-1, 5, Tyler Lee 0-2-0 (PC).
Receiving: Dameian Suttles 4-55, Tevin Cowan 2-44, Sean Neal 2-23 (TA); Tyler Lee 1-5 (PC).
Records: Tyner Academy- 8-3; Polk Co. 10-1.