As strange as it may sound, Polk County's 35-15 win over Central actually came down to two plays beneath the Purple Pounders' Friday night lights.
Central's top offensive player, Terry Tiller, hurt his leg on his first carry from scrimmage and never returned. Polk County's top offensive player, Zach Miller, hurt his leg on his final carry of the first half but didn't let it keep him from action.
"I saw how much it affected them when they lost their guy, and I wasn't going to let it get them back up by me going out," Miller said later. "My teammates picked me up, and we went back at it."
The Wildcats (2-0) rode big Miller through three quarters before he limped away into the night after rushing for 210 yards and scoring three times. Miller scored on runs of 8, 1 and 46 yards and rushed for 84 yards after the leg injury before calling it a night with his team up 28-6. He also teamed with another injured player, Chris Wimberley, to shut down Central's Tiller-less offense.
"We had two starters not playing and then Miller goes down," Polk coach Derrick Davis said. "I know it had to affect them when they lost a good player, but sometimes that's what it is all about, having other kids step up.
"I think this may the first time we have ever come down here and won, and we did it with a lot of kids stepping in for others and kids playing hurt. It was a nice win."
Wimberley was nursing a sprained AC joint in his shoulder but added 78 rushing yards and an 11-yard score and was an animal on defense with a dozen tackles. He also had a 97-yard TD run called back.
Polk had 323 yards, all on the ground, and had held Central to 127 rushing yards until a final meaningless drive made the final score a little bit more respectable.
In Tiller's absence, the Pounders turned to Isyah Funk, who had 19 carries for 80 yards. Central committed three turnovers and simply could not stop the big offensive line of Polk, which paved hole after hole as the Wildcats rushed it 42 times and threw just three passes.
Polk's Josh Silas added a 6-yard run to make it 35-9 in the final period to seal the game, and Central got a late 75-yard drive that culminated with Scout Morgan's 10-yard jump pass to Phillip Bonnington in the end zone with 20 ticks left. The Pounders had managed just 25 yards of offense in the second half up until the final drive.
"Our guys did a great job containing them at the line, and we got some good blocks on the edge," Davis said. "I tell you, Miller makes me look like a really smart coach a lot of times."
Polk will have Friday night off next week to heal, while Central (1-1) will open its District 6-A play by hosting East Ridge.
Contact James Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.