As worried as Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis is this week about stopping Mitchell, he’s equally as concerned about managing another potential enemy.
When the Wolverines step onto W.J. Miller Field for Thursday’s 7 p.m. kickoff against the Mountaineers, awaiting them will be the TV cameras of WMYA-TV, there to air the game live regionally. It is the third straight year that the two teams have played on local television.
Also awaiting Polk County for the first time in five weeks will be a home crowd, there in what officials hope will be a packed G.M. Tennant Stadium to see a game that could play a huge role in Polk County’s playoff future.
It’s potentially a lot to handle for a group of teenagers.
“I think our roles as coaches this week is to keep the clutter away from the players,” Ollis said. “When all is said and done, this is still a high school football game. We’ve still got to line up and play.
“The kickoff is 30 minutes earlier, so we’ll move everything in our pregame back 30 minutes. That’s not a big deal. There’s one less day to prepare, but both teams are under that, so that’s a wash. I still feel like we’re going to be awfully well prepared.”
Preparation will be vital as Polk County (6-2, 2-0) hosts a Mitchell team (7-1, 1-1) that has dominated opponents most of the season. The Mountaineers have averaged more than 48 points per game while racking up non-conference wins over schools such as Erwin, McDowell and R-S Central. Only a 30-20 loss to Mountain Heritage two weeks ago has spoiled their slate.
Senior quarterback Ben Young guides the prolific offense, having thrown for 1,067 yards and 16 touchdowns on 67 of 108 attempts. Young has also rushed for 459 yards. Sophomore Noah Pitman leads the team in rushing with 530 yards and eight touchdowns, with senior Ben Robinson close behind with 520 yards and six scores.
Three receivers – Brady Smith (18-329-3), Jesse Pitman (14-228-2) and Tyler McKinney (10-194-4) – have at least 10 receptions.
“They have bought into that style of offense and they run it with precision,” Ollis said. “It’s almost like playing option football. We have to play assignment football and do what we’re coached to do all week.
“They can throw and catch the ball as well as anyone we’ve seen. This is a team that won 13 games last season, so they’re used to winning.”
Charged with stopping Mitchell’s attack will be a Polk County defense that has played well throughout the season, especially in recent weeks.
“Defensively, we’re playing as well as any team in the conference,” Ollis said. “We’re playing with a lot of confidence on defense. We certainly need to play well Thursday to make the game competitive.
“We realize the importance of this game. But we don’t want the players to get caught up in all of the excitement of being on TV and playing a quality team. We need to keep focused and do what we do well. We respect what they’ve done and we look forward to the challenge.”