Polk County defenders swarm an East Henderson runner during the preseason scrimmage at East (Jane Ollis photo)

Finally, football: PCHS varsity ready for return to action

February football is more than fine with Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis.

“Better late then never,” Ollis said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to play high school football again. North Carolinians, in general, are excited to see high school football again.”

Polk County’s 2020 season, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, officially begins Saturday as the Wolverines travel to Hendersonville. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. and the game will be streamed live via the NFHS Network.

It will be Polk County’s first regular-season contest since its 2019 playoff loss at Mitchell, a 28-0 loss now 15 months ago. The Wolverines, while young, take high expectations for the 2021 season to Dietz Field for the latest matchup in the longtime rivalry between the schools.

“Back when we were both in the Western Highlands Conference, before Hendersonville moved up to 2A, this was the game,” Ollis said. “Polk County and Hendersonville have been playing 45, 50 years.

“They’re just a classic Hendersonville team. You can hold them, hold them, hold them and then they’ll throw the ball over the top for 70 yards and a touchdown. Their passing game can scare the bejeebers out of anybdoy.”

The Bearcats return an experienced receiving corps led by Dorian Allen (41 receptions, 706 yards, three touchdowns) and Tristian Perkins (26-341-3). East Henderson transfer Gavin Gosnell is expected to start at quarterback. The Bearcats can also run the ball effectively with senior Jay Gaines (759 yards, 10 TDs) back to pace the ground game.

“They’ve got a quality thrower in Gosnell,” Ollis said. “He’s a smooth-looking kid who is sneaky quick and fast. He does a good job escaping sacks and buying time to get the ball out to his receivers.”

Polk County sophomore quarterback Casey Beiler has shown some of those same traits in the preseason, being able to keep plays alive to avoid negative yardage. Ollis was especially pleased with Beiler’s performance, as well as that of the entire Wolverine squad, in last week’s scrimmage with East Henderson.

“It was a good effort for us from a confidence standpoint,” he said. “We had zero turnovers, zero sacks and zero lost yardage. And our defense pitched a shutout. We didn’t execute perfectly every time, but we’ve worked on those things.

“That was Casey’s first start as a high school varsity quarterback and I thought he really performed well. He was very composed and made some throws that haven’t been made here in a while.

“Our linebacker play was great. Angus (Weaver) and Nate (Henderson), I asked (assistant head coach Jamie Thompson) if we had ever had both players look that good, and he said not in recent memory.”

Inclement weather could be the only stumbling block for the game, with rain forecast to begin in Hendersonville during the late morning hours and continue through the evening.