POLAND — A defensive play set the tone early and then sealed the deal late for Poland on Friday night, and the Knights held off the Mountain valley Falcons, 16-7.

Poland (3-4) capped off its home schedule with a solid defensive effort. It began with a Jagger Ware interception that led to Poland’s first touchdown, and ended when the Knights halted Mountain Valley’s last hopes with a safety. John Fossett tackled Alex Ridley in the end zone to claim the victory.

“For the seniors in their last home game, it was really important to them to come out and play well,” Poland coach Ted Tibbetts said. “I’m really happy for those guys.”

The Falcons (2-5) had possessions in the second, but struggled to move the ball at times. Mountain Valley’s best drive of the half got as close as the 26 before a fumble gave it back to the Knights.

“Offensively, we really didn’t get anything going,” Mountain Valley coach Steve LaPointe said. “We did get the ball and had that one drive, but we fumbled the ball.”

It was a costly loss for the Falcons. Early in the second quarter, sophomore back Kyle Farrar went down with a knee injury. 

“He was just starting to heat up,” LaPointe said. “He came into the game with 780 yards rushing. He’s a huge part of our offense. When he went down, I think the kids responded.”

Seniors Mike Provencher and Tory Cochran led the ground game for the Falcons, but it was tough to sustain a possession. The Falcons had just one completion on 10 tries. Though the Falcons’ defense managed to hold Poland and get the ball back, the Knights never allowed Mountain Valley to get any late momentum.

“I told them it was a great way to finish the game,” Tibbetts said. “We couldn’t quite push it in and didn’t get that first down at the end, which was disappointing. But to have the defense come out and defend that pass at the end and the safety, coming in and playing strong and closing the game was good.”

All the scoring was done in the first quarter. Poland struck quickly after Ware’s interception on the third play of the game. Quarterback Patrick Jacques rushed it 15 yards for the score just 1:05 into the game.

“The guys have really improved back there and really worked hard,” Tibbetts said of his defensive backs that set up the score. “They make plays on the ball. Jagger did a good job back there moving to safety.”

Mountain Valley came right back and scored to tie it with 5:34 left in the first. Ridley dove in from the 1. Then Poland answered that score with another of its own. The Knights marched the ball downfield 61 yards and finished the drive with a 19-yard pass to Fossett from Jacques for the 14-7 lead with 35 seconds left in the first quarter.

Farrar was hurt on the Falcons first possession of the second quarter. The Falcons got great efforts from Provencher and Cochran, but Mountain Valley just couldn’t finish a drive. Provencher finished with 56 yards on 15 carries, while Cochran added 26 yards on nine tries. The Falcons got as close as the 26. Mountain Valley faced fourth-and-two and got a carry that earned the first down, but the ball was fumbled away.

“Our kids played with a lot of heart,” LaPointe said. “I’m pleased with their effort. We could have gone in the tank when Kyle went down and we didn’t. They battled hard. They really did. I’m really proud of those kids. They played their hearts out. That’s all we can ever ask.”

Though the Knights didn’t pad the lead with offense, they didn’t make any major mistakes. Poland moved the ball, used the clock and won the field position battle. Jacques finished with 136 yards on 24 carries while rushing and throwing for a touchdown. Kaleb Irizarry rushed for 56 yards on 18 carries.

“We didn’t lose any fumbles,” Tibbetts said. “It was really important for us to take care of that and hold on to the football. To move the ball and change field position, I thought that was big.” 

After the Knights couldn’t convert a fourth down in the closing minutes, the Falcons took over deep in their own territory with a minute left. Poland broke up a pass and sacked Ridley for a loss. Then Fossett sacked him in the end zone for the safety.

“I was pleased with our effort tonight,” LaPointe said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in. We match up really well with them. I thought it was a real good matchup. Their quarterback, he’s tough. He’s good. He runs the ball well. He runs that mid-line option as well as anyone I’ve seen.”

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