Sweetwater wasted no time in putting its loss to Red Bank last week behind it.
The Wildcats responded with a dominant performance against Polk County on Friday, earning a 43-0 road victory. The Wildcats improved to 5-2 on the season with the shutout win.
“It’s a big bounce back,” head coach Mike Martin said. “It was very sluggish. It was almost a somber atmosphere tonight. It was just kind of down, but we got through it.”
Sweetwater jumped out early and never looked back, scoring on the first possession of the game. Senior running back Drew Hicks ran it in for a 21-yard touchdown to open the scoring just over two minutes into the game.
The game hit a lull following the opening possession, as the Wildcats had a 15-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in a turnover on downs and Polk County struggled to pick up first downs on offense.
Then Sweetwater exploded.
With 3:18 left in the first half, Hicks tacked on his second rushing touchdown of the game to make it 14-0. Then linebacker Bryce Johnson picked off Polk County and ran for an 8-yard touchdown on the first play of the ensuing possession to make it a 21-0 game.
“(Johnson) makes plays every week. I can’t explain it,” Martin said. “Some people just have it. He’s got it, as far as defensively. He makes plays all over the place.”
The Wildcats were not done yet, though, as they forced a quick stop to get the ball back with under a minute remaining in the half. Junior quarterback Austin Long connected with Blake Jenkins on a 36-yard touchdown pass as time expired, giving Sweetwater a 28-0 halftime advantage.
“Austin can make a play on the run like that and throw the ball 50 yards or 40 yards or whatever it was,” Martin said. “Blake did a great job of getting position on the back of the goal line and went up and made the catch. That was a big play for us.”
Sweetwater picked things right back up in the second half, as Long threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kaleb Johnkins on the Wildcats’ first offensive play in the second half. Long finished the game 7-of-12 for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
“(Long) is pretty solid,” Martin said. “We had two or three drops … we didn’t throw it a whole lot, but he’s solid.”
The Wildcats added insult to injury when Jovan Johnkins forced a safety on a dropped snap in the end zone late in the third quarter. Sweetwater’s final score of the night came on a 19-yard rushing touchdown by Jerod Arnett with 7:59 left in the game.
Hicks led the Wildcats’ rushing attack with 10 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson added seven attempts for 56 yards.
“We blocked pretty well and (Hicks) ran through some tackles,” Martin said. “He can do that. I think our running game was pretty solid.”
Sweetwater coasted to victory late in the game. Long, Hicks and most of the offensive starters were subbed out of the game, allowing valuable playing time for younger and inexperienced players.
“We started subbing in the third quarter,” Martin said. “It was great to get those guys some varsity action. It’s very crucial when you’re trying to build a program.”
Sweetwater travels to Loudon for a high-profile matchup with the 7-0 Redskins on Oct. 18.