POLO – In-game adversity has been an infrequent occurrence for a Polo 8-man football team that has crushed 10 opponents thus far.
The Marcos, however, found themselves in a dogfight for a while against River Ridge in a playoff semifinal on Friday night.
But that fight didn’t last long.
Polo played a nearly flawless second half and cruised home with a 64-20 victory against the Wildcats before a chilly but hearty crowd. Next up will be the 8-man title game on Friday against either Milford/Cissna Park or Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland. Those teams play on Saturday.
It is the first season of 8-man football in Polo, and a berth in the title game left the Marcos in an emotional state.
“It feels awesome. I can’t explain it,” Polo coach Jeff Bumsted said. “I was choked up. I couldn’t talk to the kids. It’s probably the best moment of my coaching career.”
“We knew we had the ability at the beginning of the season to get this far, but we also knew it wasn’t going to be handed to us,” senior quarterback/defensive end Tucker Mumford added. “We were going to have to work for it every game, and we did. We were willing to put in the work, and we’re there now.”
River Ridge (8-4) took advantage of a pair of Polo turnovers to claw within 24-20 midway through the second quarter. A 64-yard touchdown pass from Bryton Engle to Caleb Rhodes got the Wildcats to within four points.
But it was all Polo the rest of the way. A 5-yard run by Jace Coffey 58 seconds before halftime put the Marcos up 32-20 at the break.
Polo then scored on four of five second-half possessions, and also cashed in on all four two-point conversion tries. In the first half, Polo was 1-for-5 in that department.
River Ridge did not score in the second half, and only had 72 yards of offense after halftime.
“We came out with the mentality that River Ridge was not going to score on us again,” Mumford said. ”If they did score, we were going to have to match that. Every time the ball touched our hands, we were going to score on that possession.”
Coffey led the Polo attack with 18 carries for 182 yards, including TD runs of 21 and 5 yards. Alex Davies had 16 carries for 146 yards, including TD runs of 86, 26, 3 and 20 yards.
8-man playoffs, semifinal
Polo 64, River Ridge 20
Star of the game: Jace Coffey, Polo, 18 carries, 182 yards, 2 TDs
Key performers: Tucker Mumford, Polo, 16 carries, 146 yards, 4 TDs; Tucker Mumford, Polo, 9 carries, 83 yards, 2 TDs
Up next: 8-man championship game, Polo vs. Milford-Cissna Park or Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland, 7 p.m. Friday at Monmouth College