Bruce Ollis isn’t a fan of moral victories.
But the veteran Polk County head coach admits there were some positives to take from last week’s 49-28 loss at Pisgah, lessons that could serve the Wolverines well this week as they trek to East Rutherford.
“We needed the challenge that Pisgah gave us,” Ollis said. “Certainly, they’re the best team we’ve played up to this point. We were only down by a score entering the fourth quarter. They outplayed us some after that.
“I’m awfully proud of our football team. You take away small victories sometimes from losses. Their assistant athletic director met us when we got there, and she bragged that we were the best-looking team she had greeted getting off the bus at Pisgah with our suits and ties on. After the game, she met us again to take us to where we had to shower, and she mentioned how mannerly and courteous the kids were. Those are victories as far as I’m concerned, when others see how we our people are carrying themselves.”
Polk County (4-1) will be on the road again, the second stop in its four-game road trip, for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff. It is the first time the two schools have met in the regular season since 1992, though the Wolverines did defeat the Cavaliers in both the 2010 and 2012 2A playoffs.
Take away a missed tackle here, a dropped pass there and a penalty or two, and Polk County might well have made Pisgah’s Homecoming crowd far more uncomfortable in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines especially played well in the first half, a late score giving the Bears just a 28-22 lead at the half. Polk then tied the game early in the third period on Dillon Knighton’s 61-yard interception return for a touchdown.
But where Pisgah did enjoy success was with its ground game, often bringing backs in motion from the edge and running sweeps behind its big offensive line. Ollis wouldn’t be surprised to see more of the same at East Rutherford.
“Mike Cheek, a one-time opponent when he was the head coach at R-S Central, is now the offensive coordinator at East Rutherford,” Ollis said. “Week by week he’s been slowly installing the Wing-T there. So we may see a lot of what we saw at Pisgah.
“The plays they ran were a lot of Wing-T plays just run out of the shotgun. We’ve worked on stopping the run game as the Wing-T is something we’ll see, just under center. They’ve also run some spread, so we could see anything Friday night.”
East Rutherford opened its season with three straight wins before losses to Burns (31-23) and Patton (28-21). The Cavaliers had an open date last week, giving them an extra week to both prepare for Polk County and continue to refine their offensive approach.
“They’re a very athletic team,” Ollis said. “They’re a huge team. They’ve got four kids over 300 pounds. It’s the best East Rutherford team I’ve seen.
“We’re going to see a very athletic team that Coach (Clint) Brand has assembled. They’ve got some great players and they’re really playing hard.”
Junior Demetrius Mauney has been the heart of the Cavalier attack, rushing for 619 yards and nine touchdowns with an eye-popping 11.3 yards per carry. Sophomore Calvin Jones (184 yards, three TDs) and quarterback Cameron Simmons (20-42, 282 yards, three TDs) will also play key roles on offense. Junior Jordan Harris has caught 15 of Simmons’ 20 completions. The Cavalier defense has recorded 10 interceptions, returning three of those for touchdowns, and scored another touchdown on a fumble return.
Unlike Pisgah, which had fewer than five players lining up on both sides of the ball, East Rutherford will have nearly as many starters going both ways as Polk County.