2017 proved a year of change for the United States and much of the world. The same held true for Polk County athletics.
New and familiar coaches in new places. New classifications. New successes. Constants were few throughout the year.
Based on readership data, here is a look back at the 10 most-read stories on PolkSports.com in 2017. From all of us, many thanks for your continued interest and best wishes for 2018. See you there.
When former Polk County head football coach Bruce Ollis resigned his coaching position at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C., he had no plans to return to the place where he won more than 100 games in 12 seasons.
But Jamie Thompson, at the time Polk County’s head coach, began working to bring Ollis back to Polk County. By the end of that process, Ollis had agreed to return as head of the Wolverine program, with Thompson returning to his role as defensive coordinator.
“None of this ever happens without Jamie Thompson,” Ollis said. “He is an incredible person and good friend, and we have an incredible relationship.
The reunion would prove effective – Polk County finished 8-5 in 2017, reaching the second round of the state 1AA playoffs, with Thompson’s defense pitching back-to-back shutouts at one point during the season.
The first reaction of many – “Coach Thompson did what?”
Polk County football coach Jamie Thompson made a decision that many found surprising, stepping aside as the Wolverines’ head coach and becoming the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach under Bruce Ollis.
Those that know Thompson, though, understood his reasoning. A man who puts family and faith first, Thompson saw an opportunity to make Polk County football stronger, to place the needs of the many above the needs of the few – and the one.
“When you look at the numbers at Bruce Ollis with Jamie Thompson and Bruce Ollis without Jamie Thompson and Jamie Thompson with Bruce Ollis and Jamie Thompson without Bruce Ollis, apart, we’re about .500,” Thompson said. “Together, we averaged about 10 wins a season. We make a great team.”
No matter the season, Ty Stott could routinely be found around Polk County’s baseball field.
Running practice, holding a summer camp, working on the field – Stott spent much of his 21 years as Polk County’s head baseball coach toiling away in and around the Wolverine diamond.
But with his daughter, Morgan, playing for the Wolverine softball program, Stott decided he was ready for a break from the demands of being a head coach, stepping aside prior to the 2017 season.
“I will enjoy this spring watching Morgan play softball and having the first spring off from baseball in a long time,” Stott said. “I enjoy being at home and relaxing and baseball is such a grind that for the last 21 years I have been locked in from December to mid-May.”
It’s one of the traditions each football season that generates significant interest among Polk County fans – Homecoming.
The annual celebration kicks off each year with a parade through downtown Columbus, followed by the crowning of the queen during halftime of that night’s home football game.
Twenty-one students comprised this year’s Homecoming court, with senior Isabella Bowser crowned as the 2017 queen.
When Billy Alm completed college, concluding an athletic career that included many achievements on the baseball diamond, he had a primary goal – to one day lead a high school program.
That vision became reality when Alm was named to replace Ty Stott as Polk County’s head baseball coach, giving the veteran coach, at the time the Wolverines’ head softball coach, an opportunity to return to the sport he cherishes.
The Wolverines finished Alm’s first season with a 9-12 record, earning a 2A playoff berth in the process.
“It has always been my dream, since I finished college, to take over a baseball program,” Alm said. “After six or so years as an assistant coach at the varsity level and two years as the middle school head coach, that dream has come true. I’m definitely super excited about this.”
Home. Bruce Ollis has heard and used that word a lot in reference to Polk County.
Days after being approved as the sixth head coach in Wolverine history – and the first to hold the position twice – Ollis reflected upon the turn of events that brought him back to Columbus and the excitement that he and his family had around that return.
It would soon feel like old times around Polk County’s program, with son Jordan Ollis joining the coaching staff and wife Jane taking photographs on the sidelines during games.
“Polk County feels like home,” Ollis said. “All three of my sons graduated from here and we still own a home here. It’s like I never left, to a certain degree. I’ve still been connected to the coaches and to the community. A lot of people have said welcome back. But a lot of people have said welcome home. That’s how I feel.”
Polk County’s cheerleaders received an opportunity to step onto a bigger stage, being chosen to appear in activities before the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game in Charlotte.
The Wolverines took 31 cheerleaders – plus family and friends – to the event. Polk County’s squad joined several others in a dance routine before the start of the game matching Clemson and Miami.
A warm, muggy evening didn’t stop Polk County fans from filling G.M. Tennant Stadium for the Wolverines’ football season opener.
Nor did it stop Polk County, who romped to a 30-14 victory over Chase in Bruce Ollis’ first game in his second stint as the Wolverines’ head coach.
Elijah Sutton scored two touchdowns and Polk County’s defense forced four turnovers and only allowed three Chase drives of more than five plays.
“It was good for us to be able to play through a tough game a very athletic Chase team and get a victory,” Ollis said. “I don’t think we could have played much better on defense. We gave up two long balls, which were the only scores we gave up. Other than that, we played awfully solid.”
Throughout his 12 years coaching various sports at Polk County, Phillip Miller did a lot of double duty, working full-time for the Town of Tryon while nearly doing the same with the Wolverine athletic program.
New responsibilities in his day job, though, meant the end of Miller’s time with Polk County athletics as he resigned as Polk’s head wrestling coach and assistant football and softball coach.
“My job has changed, and I’m just no longer going to be able to get time off like I could in the past,” Miller said. “Twelve years is a long time. I’ve done my part to help.”
But by the end of 2017, Miller had found a new way to help, serving as an assistant wrestling coach at Polk County Middle School.
A talented East Surry squad figured to offer quite a challenge for Polk County’s volleyball team in the 1A quarterfinals showdown between the two programs.
But the Wolverines deftly handled East Surry’s hard-hitting offense, posting a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals before a loud home crowd.
The win would send Polk County to the state semifinals for just the second time in school history and ensure that the Wolverines would record the most victories in a single season in the program’s annals.
“We played well, though we had a lot of unforced errors in the match,” said Polk County head coach Molly Hill. “You could tell that we were nervous early. It took us a few minutes to get settled. Once we played at 100 percent of our game and at our speed, we got the job done.”