There may not be a notch yet in the 2013 victory belt, but Polk County head football coach Bruce Ollis still has high expectations for the remainder of the current campaign.
“I think we can still be a good football team,” Ollis said. “If people will keep believing in us, and we keep believing in ourselves, we’re going to be OK.”
The Wolverines continue Friday their quest for their first win of the season, visiting Landrum for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Cardinals come into the game at 1-1, earning a 49-34 win last week over Walhalla, and will no doubt be looking to turn the tide in a Thermal Belt rivalry dominated by Polk of late. The Wolverines have won nine of the last 10 meeting between the two schools, including last season’s dramatic 28-21 overtime win.
Landrum quarterback Aaron Bryant accounted for more than 500 total yards and five touchdowns in the win over Walhalla and could easily reach 1,000 total yards for the season in Friday’s game. The Cardinals have scored 81 points in their first two games, providing another challenge for a Polk defense that has already faced outstanding offenses in Shelby, Asheville and R-S Central.
“If you look back to the Shelby game, we were able to keep their high powered offense off the field by having a 12-play and an 18-play scoring drive,” Ollis said. “It is difficult for them to score when they are standing on the sideline. We will need to do that on Friday. Our defense must get off the field and stop folks on third down.
“Our run stopping defense has to improve if we are going to get things turned around defensively.”
The Wolverines have certainly shown signs of being a quality football team thus far this season. Quarterback Reese Schlabach is averaging almost 200 yards passing per game, with Anthony Carson (22 catches, 332 yards, two touchdowns) his favorite target. Polk has shown an ability to maintain sustained scoring drives as well as deliver quick strike scoring plays on offense, doing both in last week’s 42-33 loss to R-S Central.
What Ollis is looking for, though, is consistency in both areas, as well as an improved running game, an area in which injuries have been a key factor.
“For the most part we have been giving good effort yet sometimes we lack the execution aspect of making a play good,” Ollis said. “We have thrown and caught the ball very well at times but must be able to mix in the run better in order to control the ball for longer periods of time.
“Most of the time if you rush the ball with consistency you are also able to stop the run on a consistent basis and that has been a problem for us.”
On the road at its neighborhood rival, facing a high-powered offense in an environment expected to be electric may sound like plenty of cause for concern for a team seeking its first win. But Ollis isn’t quite as worried about the Cardinals as much as he’s worried about the Wolverines.
“At this point and time we have to be more concerned about ourselves than the opponent,” he said. “We have done some positive things but yet not enough to enable us to come away with a victory.
“This will be the most important game we ever play because it is our next game.”
[Photo credit: Jane Ollis]