BENTON, Tenn. — More than halfway through the season, Whitwell's starters are still waiting for a full four-quarter test.
Class 1A's fifth-ranked Tigers came in and spoiled Polk County's homecoming festivities with an impressive 49-25 nonregion win at the Larry G. Davis football complex.
Although it was the first game they didn't invoke the mercy rule, coming in with an average 45-point win margin, the Tigers (6-0) still had pulled their starters by the midway point of the fourth period. They had reached the end zone with both long, sustained drives and lightning-fast quick strikes in building a commanding 35-7 halftime lead over the 2A hosts, who fell to 4-2.
"I thought both sides of the ball played lights-out tonight," Whitwell coach Randall Boldin said. "We love the home run plays and that's what our offense is designed for, but our defense really got after them and made some big plays.
"The offense and defense feed off each other because so many of our kids go both ways, so whenever we would get a turnover, we wanted to capitalize with points, and we did that."
Whitwell scored first on a 50-yard pass from Warner Ashworth to Tanner Stewart just six plays into the game. After forcing a three-and-out, the Tigers drove 63 yards in 11 plays with Hudson Petty finishing the drive with a 1-yard touchdown.
The Tigers answered Polk County's first score with another 11-play drive, this time capped by Ashworth's 39-yard TD throw to Thundur Roberts. Whitwell then ended any thought of drama by cashing in two turnovers late in the first half, highlighted by a 65-yard interception return by Roberts.
Josh Wingo finished with 16 carries for 178 yards and two scores, including a 66-yarder in the third quarter. Ashworth completed 8 of 10 passes for 144 yards and three TDs as the Tigers rolled up 446 yards on a Wildcats defense that had allowed an average of just 15 points per game. Whitwell outgained Polk by 200 yards in total offense.
"We battled them at times, but they just physically got after us," Wildcats coach Derrick Davis said. "We knew they were too good of a team to help with mistakes, but we made a bunch of them and they made us pay for those turnovers.
"There are times where they get the ball out in space to their athletes one-on-one with a defender, and they just win those battles. We're a better team than we were last year, but they still came in here and put it on us."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.