BENTON, Tenn. — "Wow."
The three-letter exclamation was all South Pittsburg coach Vic Grider could manage for the first few moments after seeing his Pirates battle back with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to defeat Polk County 21-14.
"Wow," Grider repeated. "I just don't know how. I don't think we were ever in sync. The penalties -- 11 in the first half -- were execution penalties for the most part. We just were not getting lined up. I guess the highlight for me was that the kids answered the call in a really tough place to play."
The game was important for each team for postseason purposes although each had already secured its respective district championship, Polk in 5-AA and South Pittsburg in 6-A. Too, South Pittsburg was trying to come off the deck after a head-knocking, 35-21 loss to Boyd-Buchanan.
"Polk is a lot like Boyd-Buchanan. They're physical. They don't make mistakes," Grider said.
The host Wildcats had just taken a 14-6 lead with 6:53 to play, a 94-yard drive when Grider went first to fullback Kahlil Miller, who broke a 17-yard run up the middle, and then to the gamebreaker, Demetric Johnson.
The senior wingback broke a 40-yard run down the visiting sideline with 5:02 to play and then tied the game on a sweep around the left side.
Just a minute and 14 seconds later, he put the Pirates on top for the first time since midway of the second quarter with a 19-yard run.
"Number 2 is a special player," Grider said. "I think he has realized when the game is on the line I'm going to give him the football."
The game was a matchup of marquee players -- South Pittsburg's backs Johnson and Jajuan Lankford, who entered the game averaging 16.4 and 14.2 yards per carry respectively, and Wildcats beast of a fullback Zach Miller, who was coming off a 411-yard show in a district-clinching win over Sequoyah.
Johnson, held below 100 first-half yards for one of the few times this year, finished with 153 yards on 12 carries while Miller had 130, much of it against an eight-man front, on 30 carries. Both scored two TDs.
"Miller is a special player. You just don't see big, bruising guys lack that at this level, especially in Class 1A," Grider said.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...