Five things to know as Polk County opens the state 1A playoffs, traveling to Murphy for a first-round matchup.
Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.
Last week: Polk County (4-6) dropped a 49-21 decision at Brevard. Murphy (7-3) closed its season with a 35-12 win over Cherokee.
Big dog: Senior Hunter Stalcup is the heart of Murphy’s offense in all phases.
An All-State selection last season by several outlets after rushing for more than 2,000 yards, Stalcup has delivered a stellar senior campaign, rushing for 1,386 yards and 21 touchdowns. He enters the playoffs with back-to-back 200-yard efforts against Andrews and Cherokee.
Stalcup’s value extends beyond the rushing game. He is also the team’s leading receiver with 17 catches for 324 yards and five touchdowns. His rushing attempts plus receptions equal 40 percent of Murphy’s team total for the season.
Stalcup also has 17 kickoff returns, averaging 25.1 yards per return, and has recorded 58 tackles and an interception on defense. Clearly, Polk County will see a lot of Stalcup on Friday.
Running fancy: Murphy’s offense is built around the ground game, with the Bulldogs owning more than a 3:1 run-pass ratio this season operating out of the Wing T.
Stalcup has much to do with that. But there are a couple of other threats of which the Wolverines have to be aware. Freshman Cameron Clem has rushed for 662 yards, is averaging 7.6 yards per carry and has three 100-yard games this season. Senior Trenton Russell has carried just 27 times, but averages 9.1 yards per rush.
With its misdirection-based approach and good size in the offensive line, Murphy is averaging 258 yards rushing per game and 7.3 yards per rush.
On the Wolverines: “They do have some really good athletes all over the place, and they do a really good job getting their athletes the ball when they can. Defensively, those same kids are playing defense just like most 1A schools, and they pose a big challenge to us as well.” – Murphy head coach Joseph Watson to Team FYN Sports.
Series history: Polk County’s stint in the Smoky Mountain Conference meant Murphy and Polk County battled five times in the 1997-2003 period, with the Bulldogs taking all five.
The closest of those came in the teams’ last meeting, a 25-19 Bulldog in in 2003.
That was also a playoff game, a second-round meeting, that lasted two overtimes and came down to a disputed call at the goal line, with Polk County’s side of the field convinced that the Wolverines’ Daniel McEntyre scored the winning touchdown with seconds left in regulation. Officials, though, ruled otherwise, sending the game into overtime.
Jim Ollis passed for 115 yards and two touchdowns in that game as Polk saw its season end with an 11-2 record.
Record watch: Polk County senior Antonio Simpson has a shot Friday at adding his name once again to the Wolverines’ record book.
Simpson enters Friday’s game seven receptions short of Richard McEntyre’s 143 career receptions that stand as the most in school history. Simpson has 136 career catches for 2,507 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Simpson has had two games this season with seven or more catches, grabbing seven against Landrum and a season-high nine catches against R-S Central.