Gage McSwain (20) and Polk County's defense held Owen to negative rushing yardage

Battle of balanced offenses to highlight Polk’s Homecoming tilt

Known for its passing game of late, Avery has also shown signs this season of a solid rushing attack.

A program built around the run in recent years, Polk County has demonstrated a more-than-capable passing game in its first four games.

The result is two remarkably balanced offenses set to collide Friday in G.M. Tennant Stadium in a key Western Highlands Conference clash. It will be Homecoming for Polk County, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. The game will also air on the NFHS Network.

Sidelined two weeks by COVID-19 protocols, Avery (2-0, 1-0) returned Saturday with a 44-14 win over Madison. The Vikings still feature a four-wide receiver attack helmed by senior quarterback Troy Hoilman, who has thrown for 444 yards and eight touchdowns in Avery’s two games.

Avery, though, has put its sizable offensive line to good use in front of sophomore running back Chad Giarrusso, who has racked up 328 yards and three scores to date.

“They’re a similar team to last year,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “They’ve got the vertical passing game that gave us fits, and they run the ball well enough to keep you honest. You can’t drop eight back to stop the pass.

“They’re very big upfront. This is probably the biggest team that we’ve seen. And (head coach) Mac Bryan is a ball coach. I expect them to come in and challenge us. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Western Highlands Conference team.”

In its two games, Avery has averaged 234 yards receiving and 222 yards passing. Polk County is nearly as balanced at 193 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving per game, with sophomore Angus Weaver coming off back-to-back games of 190+ yards on the ground.

“It’s good for us not to be dependant on any one form of offense,” Ollis said. “We can throw it and catch it pretty well, we’ve got Gage (McSwain) who can get out on the edge and Angus is running the ball well downhill.

“It makes it difficult for opponents to figure us out. (Offensive coordinator Zach Searcy) and I have taken the approach that we’re going to dance with who brung us. The last two games, we’ve rushed the ball well and we haven’t had the need to throw. That’s a good thing because you have to rush the ball well in this league.”

The Wolverine defense, meanwhile, comes in off its best showing of the season, a shutout of Owen in which Polk County held the Warhorses to negative rushing yardage. That marked two weeks in a row for that accomplishment, numbers that have given the young Polk defense a boost.

“Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence,” Ollis said. “We didn’t play a perfect game. We had a few more mental and physical mistakes thatn I wante.

“But the last time we did that, we dialed those way down the next week. I’m hoping we can do that again.”

Of note: Ollis said senior Nate Henderson, injured late in last week’s win, is expected to be available Friday. . . After Avery won three of the first five meetings in the series, Polk County has won the last 13 games, including a 35-28 thriller at Avery in 2019. . . Hoilman surpassed 5,000 career passing yards in the win over Madison. He’s now thrown for 5,064 yards and 63 touchdowns in his career. . . Senior Ty Smith is Holiman’s top target, catching 12 passes for 252 yards and six touchdowns.