BENTON — The Polk County Wildcats are now 1-0 in District 5-AA football — by the skin of their teeth.
The Wildcats escaped with a 21-14 victory over McMinn Central Friday night after a disappointing, lackluster performance that had head coach Derrick Davis wondering in exactly what direction his team is headed.
“We are very fortunate to get out of here with a win. We made some big plays on the first half, in particular an interception and score by Chris (Wimberley). We did enough good things the first half to give us a good lead,” said an exasperated Davis.
His frustration was backed up with figures.
For the first time in 13 games Polk’s workhorse running back, Zach Miller, was held to under 100 yards rushing.
The Wildcats were held to a single first down in the second half, gave up two touchdowns while running only 22 offensive plays.
Polk punted on all four second half possessions going three-and-out three times.
McMinn Central controlled time of possession in the final 24 minutes as the Chargers’ Denzel Boyd sliced up the Wildcats’ defense for 167 yards.
“But, the story of the night is after the opening kickoff, we’re missing an offensive tackle. It was things like that all night,” said Davis.
Polk was forced to call a time out before the game’s first snap and went three-and-out on the first series.
The Wildcats showed signs of life in the first half recovering from the opening blunder and scoring on a 21-yard Josh Silas to Wimberley strike.
The Chargers controlled the clock and the Polk defense on their next possession chewing up six minutes on a 79-yard drive that lasted 11 plays. On the 12th play, Wimberley stepped up, and stepped in front of a Central pass at the goal line and raced north 76 yards to the Chargers’ 15-yard line as the first quarter came to a close.
Wimberley opened the second quarter with a 21-yard run to the end zone to put Polk up 14-0.
Polk’s Blake Cross followed on the Chargers’ next possession intercepting a McMinn Central pass to set Polk up at the Charger 39. Four plays later, Miller carried a host of Chargers on his back while covering 35 yards for a touchdown.
Reno Wimberey’s point after put the Wildcats up 21-0 at halftime.
The second half belonged to McMinn Central. The Chargers scored midway through the third quarter and trailed 21-6 after a missed extra point.
Central put another score on the board in the fourth and closed the gap to 21-14 after an 18-yard Boyd TD and a 2-point conversion.
“You have to give Central credit. The second half they played much harder than we did. We were fortunate to win the ballgame. This is a great win, but my feeling right now is just a sense of relief that we actually held on. If there had been another two or three minutes on the clock, they probably woul have beat us,” said a perplexed Davis.
“The second half, you’d think we’d be excited about a 21-0 lead, but we just were not. I’m at a loss on reading these kids. I really don’t understand it.”
Five games into the season Davis and staff are still looking for answers as far as finding leadership, fixing mistakes and playing a full 48 minutes.
“You want to feel good about every win, but next week will be our fifth ballgame and we’re still doing some things that are not very smart,” he said. “We haven’t figured out that you’ve got to play four quarters. We kind of got that out of Bradley, we made mistakes but we played for four quarters.”
The Wildcats step out of district Friday to host a seriously improved Walker Valley. The Mustangs (3-2) are coming off a 38-14 loss to Bradley Central.
“We have got an extremely tough schedule. We’ve got Walker Valley, South Pittsburg and Notre Dame plus our district games. We are going to have to find a way to put four quarters together and not take plays off. We looked just exhausted tonight. You would think by week five we wouldn’t be out of shape,” said Davis.
“I’ve got to do a lot of soul searching and try to figure out how to motivate. This ultimately falls on me and right now I’m very frustrated. But, we’ve got a lot of football left to play and we’ve got to figure out some remedies for the ailments we’ve got.”