“We said they were going to get their plays, and they did and we were going to have to hit them, and we did. I knew when we scored there was probably too much time. Then, they got a good return and it came down to a fourth-down play. We hit him it was just a foot too late,” said an emotionally drained Davis. “There was hard hitting on both ends. You have to give them credit. They had two minutes and forty seconds and they took it down and scored with just a few seconds left.”
Polk knew coming in the Warriors were a passing team and quarterback Quinn Epperly did not disappoint. The long-throwing senior picked holes in the Polk County secondary for 388 yards and two touchdowns.
The Wildcats answered with two interceptions by Tyler Lee and one by Logan Swafford. Lee’s second pick, a yard deep in the end zone, was returned 70 yards by the Polk County senior and set up the go-ahead touchdown.
“That’s probably one of the best football games I’ve been associated with and I’ve been around here long enough to have been around a lot of good football games,” said Davis. “Once again the preparation and the effort were there. We just ran out of time.”
Polk answered CAK’s first challenge, a 64-yard, 10-play scoring drive with a 58-yard pass from Jared Allen to Lee that was called back for a block in the back. The Wildcats overcame the flag with their own 64-yard drive in eight plays. Allen again found Lee, this time for nine yards for the score to put Polk up 7-6.
Swafford’s pick with just over a minute left in the first quarter set up the ’Cats second score. Allen engineered the 28-yard march and Derrick Saxe plunged the final yard behind his offensive line with a score that gave Polk a 14-6 lead.
The Warriors answered right back, scoring on a 43-yard pass play to cut the Wildcats lead to 14-12 after the second missed point after.
A fourth down try by the Warriors that fell short and two punts by Polk ended the first half with Polk holding a two-point lead.
CAK took its second lead of the game on its first possession of the second half on another passing drive ending in a TD. The 2-point conversion put the Warriors up 20-14 with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
With the Warriors on the Wildcats’ 3-yard line, and looking for the blow that would lock up the game, Lee stepped in front of an Epperly offering and raced 70 yards to the CAK 31. From there, Polk pounded its way to about the half-yard, line where Allen lowered his head and crossed the line for the score. The QB/kicker put his third PAT between the uprights and gave the Wildcats a 21-20 lead with 2:40 left in the game.
On the ensuing kick, the Warriors returned the ball to their own 44 and Epperly went right to work with a drive that set CAK up with a first-and-goal on the Polk 10. Three plays later, the Warriors were looking at fourth-and-goal from the Wildcats’ 1-yard line. Carson Pegram found just enough room in the middle of the Polk line to fall just over the goal line and into the end zone. The 2-point conversion gave CAK a 28-21 lead with 39 seconds left in the game.
Polk fought back with a long hook-and-lateral but the drive fell short and the Warriors advanced to the next round.
“We played Polk County football. We played with pride for four quarters,” Davis said proudly. “What hurts more than the loss is the fact it is the last game for the seniors. They are all high-quality young men of exceptional character. We are going to miss their leadership. I know we’ve got some good kids coming back, but man, this was a good group. They have had two outstanding seasons — 21 wins is pretty unbelievable.
Davis went on to say the Wildcats have every reason to hold their heads high and, after some time to rest and recover, get ready to begin another season next fall.
“We had a chance to go to the third round. But it is just one of life’s disappointments. They will face others. Now they will move on to another chapter of their lives,” said the proud coach. “I am extremely proud of the team tonight, the seniors and the season in general. We have nothing to hang our head about. All you can ask is they go out there and give it all they’ve got. I think anybody that watched this game would agree.
“We would like to have gone on to the third round, of course, but unfortunately we are going to be taking up the equipment next week,” he added. “But I am extremely proud of all these young men and what they have meant to Polk County Football.”
Polk County 7 7 0 7 — 21
CAK 6 6 8 8 — 28
CA — Carson Pegram 1 run (kick failed), 7:25
PC — Tyler Lee 9 pass from Jared Allen (Allen kick), 4:04
PC — Derrick Saxe 1 run (Allen kick), 10:54
CA — Josh Smith 43 pass from Quinn Epperly
(kick failed), 9:04
CA — Smith 30 pass from Epperly (Zach Mead pass from Epperly), 3:24
PC — Allen 1 run (Allen kick), 2:40
CA — Pegram 1 run (Smith pass from Epperly), 0:39
First downs 11 25
Rushes-Yards 34-91 21-68
Passing 103 388
Total yards 194 456
Comp-Att-Int 6-8-0 35-47-3
Punts-Ave. 3-39.0 0.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-42 6-57
Rushing: Allen 14-49, Saxe 11-40 (PC); Epperly 10-43, Pegram 11-25 (CAK). Passing: Allen 5-8-0, 70, Lee 1-2-0, 33 (PC); Epperly 35-47-3, 388 (CAK). Receiving: Michael Hargrove 2-44, Lee 3-40 (PC); Smith 9-146, Mead 9-105, Davis Howell 8-72 (CAK). Records: Polk County 10-2; CAK 11-1.