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.