Pollack shouldered the load in the Rebels’ 39-12 win, finishing the night with five touchdowns and 223 yards on a whopping 31 carries.
South achieved a measure of revenge for last year’s first-round playoff loss to the Purple Pounders, who pulled out a 45-42 win on the last play of the game.
“This one is unbelievable,” South coach Justin Hilton said. “I am so proud of these guys. They came out and they didn’t want to be denied this year. They didn’t leave any doubt.
“Coach (Eric) Rowe, (Carl) Davenport and (Chris) Sturgill all deserve credit for the outstanding defense. They worked extremely hard and these guys played their guts out tonight.”
South’s defense held strong against a tricky single-wing offense known for misdirection and piling up yardage on the ground. The Rebels stuffed the Pounders on several plays and limited them to 166 yards rushing.
South also forced a fumble and picked off three passes, including Asa Munson’s interception return for a score as time was ticking away.
Chattanooga Central had 215 yards of offense and, other than one play, no rushes of over 20 yards.
With South up 19-6 at the start of the third quarter, Central ran five quick plays then had to punt, and the Rebels started their first possession of the second half at their own 23-yard line.
South marched down the field in 12 plays on a drive that included two self-inflicted wounds: a false start and a holding penalty. The other 10 plays were all Pollack, who capped the march with a touchdown that ultimately put the game out of reach.
“This was something else,” Pollack said. “All of us seniors, this was our goal was to get back to the playoffs and get that playoff win. We said that from Day 1.
“To get back here and do it against a team that crushed us last year on the last play, there’s no better feeling.”
Pollack also hit 6 of 9 passes for 69 yards.
LIMITING THE POUNDERS
The Pounders were shorthanded, and among their missing were Mr. Football semifinalist Mike McGhee, who broke his leg earlier this season, and receiver T.J. Payne.
South’s defense played like it was ready for anything Central could bring.
“Our defense came out and executed,” Pollack said. “Giving up 12 points against an athletic team like that, that’s what got us the win. Defense played a great game for us.”
Central’s lone rush of 20-plus yards came in the second quarter when junior running back Hunter Jones scampered 69 yards for a touchdown. Jones had 81 rushing yards total, and Jaheim Jones scored the Pounders’ other TD late in the fourth quarter.
The Pounders completed just three passes for 49 yards.
The Rebels get a rematch with top-ranked and undefeated Greeneville next week at Burley Stadium. The second-round playoff game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
The Greene Devils dismantled South earlier this season, 62-7.
“This time of year, every team is good,” Hilton said. “It’s an opportunity to get better and we’re going to come out and these guys are going to come play.”