BENTON — With just under seven minutes left to play against South Pittsburg, Polk County drove 94 yards to take an eight-point lead against the Pirates.
But, as they have so many times before, the Vic Grider coached Pirates responded with quick scores with the clock winding down and rolled out of town with a 21-14 win over the Wildcats.
"When you start the year and circle some dates this is one you circle as a traditionally tough team. We went toe to toe with them, but that doesn't make it feel any better," said Polk coach Derrick Davis.
Polk fullback Zach Miller, after being held to 19 first-half yards fought foward in the second half to finish with 130.
South Pittsburg's Demetric Johnson carried 12 times for 153 including 40- and 19-yard runs for touchdowns that gave the win to the Pirates.
"Our kids fought, but you have to give credit to Johnson. That kid is a good player and they made some plays at the end that we weren't able to stop. That was the key," said Davis.
The Wildcats (6-3) missed out on an early scoring opportunity after recovering a Pirates' fumble on the first play from scrimmage. South Pittsburg (7-2) responded defensively and held Polk on a fourth-and-3 at the 3-yard line.
The Pirates took the lead midway through the second quarter after returning a Wildcats' fumble 27 yards for a touchdown.
"The first turnover, somehow the call got sent in wrong and that led to a defensive score for them," recalled Davis. "They are a good enough team that you can't just give them one."
Polk went back to its big running back on the opening drive of the second half. Miller barreled forward for 58 yards on the 10-play, 96-yard drive to score the go-ahead touchdown.
The Wildcats took a 14-6 lead with just under seven minutes to play in the game after another drive of 85 yards. Miller capped the march with a 3-yard score.
It took South Pittsburg only five plays to tie the game with five minutes left to play. The Pirates took a 21-14 lead on another quick score with just under three minutes left.
"It's a tough pill to swallow. I hate it for our seniors here on Senior Night. I've been here before and it's never easy," said Davis in a quiet locker room.
"But, as much as this one hurts, we are in the same position we were last year and we've got a chance to send these seniors out of here undefeated in the district four years straight. We've got one more district game against Meigs and a win there would improve our playoff seeding."