Long hours off the field part of weekly routine for Polk County coaches

The formations that Dillon Knighton (11) and Polk County's offense line up in on Friday nights are often the result of detailed planning done during the week prior to the game.

Every week during football season, a huge whiteboard in Polk County’s coaches’ office is filled with formations and numbers.

The formations reflect those used by the Wolverines’ upcoming opponent. The numbers will reflect various tendencies of the opponent in each formation.

What isn’t present on the whiteboard is the number of hours it took to create it.

When Polk County lines up Friday for its 7:30 p.m. kickoff against Western Highlands Conference leader Mountain Heritage in Burnsville, the start of the game will mean the end of hours of preparation on the part of Polk County coaches, a process that begins the day after the previous game and runs until foot meets leather to start the next one.

“There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that most people don’t know about,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “And that doesn’t include things like lining the field and washing clothes.”

Each week’s preparation begins on Saturday, when Ollis sits down with the game film from the previous night and grades every play, giving each snap a plus or minus grade.

“In a typical high school football game, there are 120 to 140-odd plays,” Ollis said. “We talk about every single play as a battle in winning the war of the game. Every play there is a game within the game. Certainly (in last week’s loss to Mitchell), there were more minuses than plusses.

“Then I grade the quarterbacks and also grade the individual players based on individual performance. When we meet on Sunday, every coach will then let me know their film grade as well.”

The Sunday meeting is the heart of the planning process for each week’s game. The entire Wolverine staff meets for several hours, reviewing what worked and didn’t work in the previous game and reviewing film and notes for that week’s opponent.

Defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Jamie Thompson oversees the film study that results in the detailed whiteboard breaking down the next opponent’s offense.

“We get an idea of their primary formations, what plays they run out of those formations, down and distance tendencies and hashmark tendencies,” Ollis said.

“We’re usually up here early, usually around 10 in the morning on Sunday. Zach Searcy will be here early and so will Jamie. We don’t start the coaches meeting until 2, but there’s a lot of grunt work that has to be done to prepare for the other coaches arriving.”

This week’s film study has proven what the Polk County coaching staff already knew – a very good Mountain Heritage team awaits. The undefeated Cougars (8-0, 3-0) are led by senior quarterback Trey Robinson, the area’s leading rusher this season and Western North Carolina’s record holder for career total yards and rushing yards. His current career rushing total of 7,135 yards is ninth highest in state history.

“He’s a typical coach’s son player who is a student of the game and seldom makes mistakes,” Ollis said. Robinson is the son of Mountain Heritage head coach Joey Robinson. “He has the running skills of a tailback. They don’t throw the ball much, but when they ask him to throw, he is very accurate.

“This is the best team we’ve played up to this point. We need to be able to possess the ball to keep their offense off the field and we need to throw and catch the ball a little better. That’s something we have to be able to do.”

Trey Robinson has averaged 216 yards per game rushing this season. Senior running back Dathan Robinson has averaged 103. The Cougars average 44 points per game while yielding 10 per game and have only had one close game this season, a 29-22 win at Hendersonville. Statistics and film confirm that the Cougars will offer quite a challenge for Polk County on Friday night.

“We’ve told the players it’s time to line up and beat a very good team, and this gives us that opportunity,” Ollis said. “We’re not going to Burnsville just to make a good showing. We’re going to try to win the football game.”