When one of Asheville’s top running threats went down Friday night against Polk County, another Cougar stepped in and showed he could handle the extra load.
Jermaine Battle used a combination of speed and power to help Asheville overcome an injury to Cameron Ray and pull away for a 21-0 victory at home over the Wolverines.
Ray, who last week led Asheville with 140 yards and three touchdowns, hurt his right ankle on a six-yard scoring run that gave the Cougars (2-0) a 14-0 lead in the third quarter.
On Asheville’s next possession, Battle made a sharp cut to the left at the line of scrimmage then sprinted 55 yards to Polk’s 14. Two plays later, he carried a herd of Wolverines six yards into the end zone.
“When my teammate went down, I knew I had to run hard,” Battle said. “Emotions were running really high, so we just had to play at our tempo. We hit them in the mouth every play.”
Ray spent the remainder of the game icing his elevated ankle and cheering his teammates as much as possible. He called the injury a “serious sprain” and said it will be evaluated today.
“It hurt pretty bad,” he said as the game clock wound down. “I really wanted to get out there. But when I couldn’t, my teammates came through for me. This is my favorite team ever. I would take these guys to be my teammates over anybody, period.”
Polk drove inside Asheville’s 35 five times, but the Cougars shut them down every time.
“I told (Asheville High coach) Danny (Wilkins) that if they gave us points for moving the ball between the 20s, Polk County might have won this game,” said Polk coach Bruce Ollis, whose Wolverines lost by 17 to Shelby in last week’s opener. “But I told our guys we are a better team, even though we’re 0-2, from having played Asheville and Shelby.”
In the first half, Polk slowed Asheville’s running attack and only allowed one big play — but it was a doozy.
After a Polk penalty extended Asheville’s second drive, Jalyn Folston got wide open behind Polk’s secondary and caught a 56-yard pass from Tevin Salters to give the Cougars their only touchdown of the first half. Malik Palmer then scored two points on a fake kick, but Polk’s defense held strong until the second half.
Other than Folston’s long reception, Asheville managed an unofficial 66 first-half yards.
Meanwhile, Polk managed an unofficial 79 yards in the first 24 minutes.