ALLEMAN – Tremendous balance and a clutch showing in the fourth quarter on offense helped the North Polk football team hold off an upset-minded Nevada team, 48-29, Friday in the first game at the new Comet Stadium.
Playing on the nice-looking turf field for the first time on homecoming night, North Polk was able to top the 200-yard mark both on the ground and through the air against Nevada. That was enough to offset four turnovers, plus a successful Nevada on-side kick, to move the Comets to 3-1 in Class 2A District 7 and 5-1 overall.
"We did a lot of really good things in the football game, but we turned it over four times and didn’t recover an on-side kick and that’s five possessions you lose," North Polk head coach Evan Groepper said. "We scored on seven possessions, so you figure some of those (lost) possessions you score and we get control of the game a little quicker and it’s a different story. But it is what it is and Nevada is a very good offensive team, with one of the best offensive backs in the league."
North Polk was coming off its first loss of the season – a 35-14 setback at No. 2 West Marshall last Friday. Nevada was on a four-game losing streak and coming off its worst outing last week in a 49-20 homecoming loss to Collins-Maxwell-Baxter.
After some soul searching following the CMB game, Nevada rediscovered its offense against North Polk. The Cubs had only scored 18 points in three games before CMB, but behind the legs of tailback Chase Dobson and an aggressive game plan, they hung tough until late in the fourth quarter.
North Polk had appeared to take control of the game in the third quarter after clinging to a 21-19 lead at the half.
Comet quarter back Cole Jackson scored on a 12-yard touchdown run with five minutes, 44 seconds left in the third. North Polk’s Austin Williams then blocked a Nevada punt attempt to give North Polk the ball at the Cub 40 with 1:56 to go in the quarter.
A 32-yard pass from Jackson to Russell Greene gave North Polk the ball at the Cub 5 yard-line, and tailback Garrett Moeckly ran it in from there to push the Comet lead to 35-19 with 54 seconds left in the third quarter.
But Nevada refused to go away.
The Cubs mounted a 58-yard drive to get a 25-yard field goal from Erik Fevold with 8:23 left in the fourth quarter. On North Polk’s next possession, Nevada forced a fumble and the Cubs’ Jacob Barker recovered.
Following an unsportsmanlike penalty on North Polk, the Cubs took over at the Comet 34 with 7:40 left. A big pass play to T.J. Fey, plus a late hit on North Polk, gave Nevada first and goal at the 10.
Cub quarterback Brandon Burke took the ball to the 2 yard-line on an 8-yard run, but he was stuffed on two quarterback sneak plays to give Nevada fourth-and-goal from the 1. After a timeout, Dobson took a quick handoff from Burke and just barely crossed the goal line for a huge touchdown at the 5:51 mark of the final period.
Fevold added the extra point and suddenly Nevada was within 35-29.
Nevada tried an on-side kick after having recovered one early in the game. North Polk’s John Washington bobbled the ball trying to pick it up, but he did corral it to give the Comets the ball on its own 43.
North Polk tailback Matt Cox then took the game over on a pivotal drive for the Comets. He had runs of nine and two yards and a 9-yard reception to help get the ball inside the Nevada 30; then the speedy junior took a sweep to the outside and broke a 27-yard touchdown run with 2:57 left.
"I just go out and play as hard as I can every snap," Cox said. "I use my speed to my advantage and I just do what I have to do. I gave it 110 percent every play and it was a team effort. It feels real good."
Nevada still had time to counter, but the Cubs had burned a couple of timeouts. They went into a spread pass attack and North Polk forced them into a fourth-and-16, thanks to a big sack from defensive end Blake Brauer on first down.
"A lot of guys were getting a bunch of pushes; everyone was holding their blocks and getting through the holes," Brauer said. "It was a good team game. We just kept the intensity up and played harder than we ever have at the end."
On fourth down Burke was intercepted by Greene, who returned it to the Cub 10. On the next play, Moeckly ran it in to ice the game for the Comets.
North Polk compiled 478 total yards in the victory. Led by Cox and Moeckly, the Comets ran for 271 yards on 40 carries and Jackson completed 10 of 14 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
"The run set up our passes and I’ve just got to give credit to the line, they gave me pretty good time to throw," Jackson said. "Our receivers also made some unbelievable catches. I couldn’t ask for more out of those guys; they did what they needed to do."
Greene was Jackson’s top target as he caught seven passes for 134 yards and a first-half touchdown. Brauer hauled in a 31-yard touchdown reception after diving to snag a tipped ball in the end zone in the second quarter and Grant Schiltz also made a 31-yard grab.
"I don’t how Blake caught that – I’ve got to give it to that No. 13 out there – and Russell, you just can’t get any better than him," Jackson said.
Cox ended up rushing for 168 yards on only 14 carries and he had one reception for nine yards. Moeckly ran for 76 yards and three touchdowns on 17 attempts and Jackson also rushed for 20 yards and a score.
Defensively, Brauer finished with eight tackles, one fumble recovery and three of North Polk’s seven sacks. Jon Lackore recorded a team-high 13 tackles and two sacks and Williams and Masson Weiss each had one sack.
Greene totaled eight tackles plus his interception, Moeckly delivered four tackles and a fumble recovery and Jamaal Hansen and Collin Hoshaw chipped in eight stops apiece.
With the victory North Polk moves a step closer toward placing in the top two in the district and achieving home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. It also was the perfect way to cap the first game on the new field.
"It’s a start of a new tradition," Brauer said. "One of many wins to come hopefully."
North Polk goes out of district this Friday to face I-35 on the road. The game will start at 7:30 p.m. in Truro.
Nevada fell to 1-5 on the season and 0-3 in 2A District 7. The Cubs compiled 294 yards of offense against North Polk, most coming from Dobson.
Dobson topped the 200-yard mark for the third time this season. After running 32 times for 209 yards last week against CMB he picked up 221 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries versus North Polk.
Riley Huhn added 27 yards rushing and 14 receiving. Fey caught three passes for 26 yards and one touchdown and Burke was 6 of 10 passing for 51 yards and one touchdown and interception apiece.
On defense Barker, Alex Merfeld and Huhn each recovered a fumble and Peyton Sharp intercepted a pass for Nevada. Patrick Stephenson made 12 tackles, Huhn had nine, Fevold finished with seven and Traye Pelzer added four.
Nevada will face South Hardin next Friday at Cub Stadium in Nevada. The Cubs need to win all of their final three games to qualify for the playoffs.
North Polk 48, Nevada 29
N 6 13 0 10 – 29
NP 7 14 14 13 – 48
N – T.J. Fey 19 pass from Brandon Burke (run failed), 8:02
NP – Russell Greene 8 pass from Cole Jackson (Carter Hartwig kick), 3:55
NP – Blake Brauer 31 pass from Jackson (Hartwig kick), 8:39
N – Chase Dobson 53 run (run failed), 7:05
NP – Garrett Moeckly 6 run (Hartwig kick), 4:52
N – Dobson 22 run (Erik Fevold kick), 0:33
NP – Jackson 12 run (Hartwig kick), 5:44
NP – Moeckly 3 run (Hartwig kick), 0:54
N – Fevold 25 FG, 8:23
N – Dobson 1 run (Fevold kick), 5:51
NP – Matt Cox 27 run (pass failed), 2:57
NP – Moeckly 10 run (Hartwig kick), 1:29
Team statistics N NP
First downs 14 19
Rushes-yards 55-243 40-271
Passing 6-12-1 10-14-1
Passing yards 51 207
Total yards 294 478
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-3
Punts-average 5-35.2 1-27.0
Penalties-yards 0-0 7-59
Rushing: N – Chase Dobson 28-221, Riley Huhn 10-27, Patrick Stephenson 1-4, Peyton Sharp 2-3, Traye Pelzer 1-(-4), Brandon Burke 13-(-8). NP – Matt Cox 14-168, Garrett Moeckly 17-76, Cole Jackson 8-20, Alec White 1-10.
Passing: N – Burke 6-10-1-51, Pelzer 0-2-0-0. NP – Jackson 10-14-1-207.
Receiving: N – T.J. Fey 3-26, Huhn 1-14, Stephenson 1-6, Dobson 1-5. NP – Russell Greene 7-134, Blake Brauer 1-31, Grant Schiltz 1-31, Cox 1-9.
Tackles: N – Stephenson 12, Huhn 9, Erik Fevold 7, Pelzer 5. NP – Jon Lackore 13, Blake Brauer 8, Greene 8, Jamaal Hansen 8, Collin Hoshaw 8, Braedon Ingersoll 7.
Sacks: NP – Brauer 3, Lackore 2, Austin Williams, Masson Weiss.
Fumble recoveries: N – Alex Merfeld, Huhn, Jacob Barker. NP – Moeckly, Brauer.
Interceptions: N – Peyton Sharp. NP – Greene.