The Polo football team has a glaring deficiency. They can’t run the ball, as evidenced by only one rushing first down against Stockton in a 20-0 loss on Oct. 6.
“Our inability to run is killing us,” Polo offensive coordinator Cliff Bardell said. “Other teams know we’ll pass.”
Forced to rely on the arm of Braiden Soltow, the Marcos managed 123 yards on 10-for-20 passing. Against a Colin Dvorak-led ground attack for Stockton, that wasn’t close to enough.
In a polar opposite to Polo, Dvorak gained 205 yards on 39 carries and over 100 of those yards were gained after he was hit.
“Up front, we executed a lot better,” Dvorak said.
After consecutive losses to West Carroll and Milledgeville and a close win over River Ridge, some were questioning whether 5-2 Stockton’s reign in the Upstate division was on the downturn.
Polo (4-3) learned otherwise and like Stockton, their scenario is quite different than it was two weeks ago, only going in the other direction.
“What started off really good has turned sour,” Polo coach Jeff Bumstead said. “The long season is wearing on the kids. Even in practice, it gets old pounding on the same few people.”
Due to weather, the majority of the second half was played on Saturday, with Stockton holding an 8-0 first half lead on its only yardage gain passing, a Garrett Buske 28-yarder pass.
“That was play action and Polo got sucked up into it,” Stockton coach Jesse Snyder said.
According to Bumstead, though, the Marcos knew the play was coming but were hurt by a non-call by the official.
“Our defensive back was picked and it was never called,” he said. “Credit to their quarterback. He threw a perfect ball. In the first half, other than that pass, we both stopped each other.”
Seemingly having the advantage as the home team and not making two road trips, Polo appeared more lethargic than the visitors on Saturday.
“As a group, we were focused,” Snyder said. “You could tell that in how hard we came out. I couldn’t have been more proud”
Taking over on its own 35 with 10:05 left in the third quarter, it was Dvorak with 10 out of 12 rushing attempts, capping off a scoring drive with a 28-yard sweep pitch over the left side for a 14-0 lead.
On their possession, Polo moved into the red zone following a diving 31-yard reception by Ethan Phillips and a 15-yard facemask penalty on the Blackhawks.
Two plays later, Winston McPeek intercepted Soltow in the end zone with no Marcos anywhere near.
“The ball slipped out and went high,” Soltow said.
Polo then made its best defensive stand of the game, forcing a 3-and-out, as Jace Coffey made a Greco-Roman style tackle on Dvorak for a short gain.
Getting the ball back at Stockton’s 40-yard line after a punt, it was Soltow finding Tucker Mumford for 11 yards and then scrambling for another 15 yards after being trapped in the backfield.
Back inside the 20 again, the Marcos couldn’t capitalize. A 15-yard penalty made it third-and-25. Soltow did find a wide open Mumford at the goal line but the ball slipped through his hands for what would have been a sure score.
“Once we got down we had to throw. Our offense is stale,” Bumstead said.
Taking over on downs, it was Dvorak continuing his onslaught along with a block on Chase Rowe’s 42-yard touchdown and 20-0 lead.
“Dvorak was putting a licking on people. He’s a heck of a back,” Bumstead said.
Polo had a last gasp try, but 6-3, 220-pound defensive end Drew McGovern threw down Soltow for a 10-yard loss and Bumstead elected to punt with 6:14 left. Stockton closed the game out with nine more carries.
“Polo has an easier task this Friday against winless AFC.
“We have to go out form here and play the kids we have,” Bumstead said.
One bright spot was Phillips grabbing five receptions for 72 yards. Polo only had 10 yards on 19 rushing attempts.