Rested Wolverines hope to engineer playoff upset at Surry Central

Polk County's defensive front - Braden Miller (61), Devin Panchyshyn (67), Hayden Shumate (55) and Donivan Twitty - will look to slow Surry Central's option attack.

Given an unexpected week off after the long grind of the regular season, Polk County head football coach Jamie Thompson decided some time away from the field might be a good use of that break.

Let the Wolverines relax the body, relax the mind before gearing up for Friday’s state 2A playoff opener at Surry Central.

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As he sat in the Polk County fieldhouse Wednesday putting together the itinerary for the journey to Surry County, Thompson couldn’t be more pleased with how that week away developed.

“Last week we did some special things,” Thompson said. “We did the community service (at Tryon Estates) on Tuesday and then we had a speaker come in on Thursday and talk to the kids.

“I think all of that was a really good experience for the coaches and the kids.”

The Wolverines will hope for another positive experience on Friday as they face the Golden Eagles, who rolled to a 10-1 regular-season record and the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference championship. The state playoffs begin a week later this season due to the impact of Hurricane Matthew, which caused many schools in the eastern portion of the state to only finish their seasons last week.

Surry Central returned 17 starters from last season’s 4-7 team and boast an experienced roster with 20 seniors. The Eagles posted impressive season-opening wins over East Surry, East Wilkes and Wilkes Central – those teams finished a combined 25-8 this season – before suffering a 42-7 loss to Mount Airy that is the only blemish on their record.

“They’ve got a good team,” Thompson said. “They’re 10-1, and you can’t be a bad team and be 10-1. This is the first time they’ve had a home playoff game in a while, so I expect them to have a big crowd.”

Senior quarterback Chandler Johnson leads an option-based offense that features senior running back Eric Ramirez and junior Marin Palacios, a key figure for the Eagles on both sides of the ball. Surry Central won five of its games by five points or less this season, relying on its senior leadership in those close games.

Polk County will hope the experience gained from its Western Highlands Conference grind will be a factor as the Wolverines look for their first playoff road win since 2000. That win came in Surry County as Polk County defeated East Surry.

“The off week helped us heal more,” Thompson said. “Jaymes Wingo and Landon White were banged up at Hendersonville, but they’re both good to go. We moved up nine kids from the junior varsity, which has been pleasant, especially at practice. They’ve helped us run the scout team and do this and do that.

“I like our chances. Our conference is pretty stout, playing teams like Mountain Heritage and Mitchell. I like our draw.”