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Win at Madison could keep Polk County in the mix for a playoff berth

A silver lining – a playoff berth – could await Polk County at the end of what has been a challenging and difficult 2018 football season

A silver lining could await Polk County at the end of what has been a challenging and difficult 2018 football season.

The Wolverines have a good chance at earning a berth in the state 1A playoffs.

There are mathematical formulas still to be computed and games still to be played next week in the eastern half of the state, but it appears that a win Friday at Madison in the regular-season finale (7:30 p.m. kickoff) could help secure a postseason trip for the Wolverines.

“It’s amazing given our won-loss record that we have a chance to jump into the playoffs,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “I know we’re approaching this week like it is a playoff game.”

Explaining how teams qualify for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs could take longer than the postseason itself, but in a nutshell:

* Conference champions and the top team in each classification in a split conference receive automatic bids. For non-split leagues with 5-8 teams, the second-place team also qualifies while in leagues with more than eight teams, the top three teams are automatically in.

* Once the automatic berths are filled, the top remaining finisher from each conference is placed in a pool and sorted by MaxPreps adjusted ranking, a computer formula that rates teams based on game performance. The highest-rated team in the pool earns a wild-card berth. The next highest finisher from that team’s conference is then added to the pool, and the process repeats.

There are 48 1A playoff berths. In this week’s MaxPreps Adjusted Rankings, Polk County sits at 40th. Hanging around that mark should ensure the Wolverines of getting a playoff spot when the brackets are announced on Nov. 10 – the postseason will start a week later this year, on Nov. 16, to give teams in the eastern half of the state an extra week of regular-season play in the aftermath of Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

The Wolverines (2-8, 1-3) can help their playoff chances by closing the season with a win over a Madison team (1-8, 0-4) that will be eager to end its year with a big home victory after also struggling throughout the fall.

“They’re a lot like us in that they’re going to try to shorten the game some,” Ollis said. “Their quarterback (Clark Gray) is an operator and they’ve got two or three quality running backs that are better-than-average high school runners.

“The big thing for us is that we’ve got to get off the field defensively and eliminate turnovers.”

To that end, the word of the week around Polk County’s locker room has been resilience. Ollis has preached the word’s definition – “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness” – as vital for Polk County’s future hopes.

“I told the players Monday that we have to find a way to become more resilient,” he said. “When things don’t go our way on the field, coaches, fans, players, we all have to be tougher and know that there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel.”

This week, that light could lead the way into the postseason for the Wolverines.

“We’d like to get into the mix of talking about the playoffs,” Ollis said. “We’re blessed to have that opportunity. That’s something we can still strive for and keep us focused.”

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