Polk County's Bryson Owen eyes a Chase defender during last week's game

Key non-conference test awaits Polk at Draughn in rare Saturday game

Polk County’s trip to Draughn offers the Wolverines a rare Saturday game and a rare late-season non-conference game.

But the uniquness of the 6 p.m. kickoff in Valdese doesn’t mask that the game also looms as an important one.

Polk County’s hopes for a first-round home 2A playoff game took a hit with last week’s 31-13 loss to Chase. The Wolverines aren’t out of the running yet, but certainly can’t afford another loss either this week or at Brevard in next week’s regular-season finale.

“This is one of the more important non-conference games we’ve played in a while,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “We’re going to have to play well. Draughn is playing with a lot of confidence.”

Draughn is just playing a lot of late, period. The Wildcats (5-3) will take the field for the third time in nine days having defeated Rosman 32-2 last Friday and then topping Madison 35-7 on Tuesday of this week.

Draughn is led by sophomore quarterback Eli Tillery (72-129-7, 959 yards, 11 TDs) and sophomore running back Nigel Dula, who has already topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Junior wide receiver Daylin Pritchard has scored eight touchdowns among his 18 receptions.

“Statistically, they’re the best team offensively in Burke County,” Ollis said. “They’ve got some good young players, with a running back that has rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

“They play well upfront on both sides of the ball and they’ve got some good size up there. We’re definitely going to have to play well.”

The game will mark only the sixth time in school history that Polk County has played on a Saturday, though one of those was earlier this year, the delayed 2020 season opener at Hendersonville.

The extra day offered Polk County some additional preparation time, and coaches used that to do an in-depth film review of the Chase loss. Ollis noted that coaches pointed out “the good and the bad,” but there was more of the former than the result might have suggested.

“The thing I’ve told them is that it’s certainly OK to be disappointed, but they don’t need to be discouraged,” Ollis said. “The final score was not indicative of how close the game was.

“There were two plays that if we make those, it changes the course of the game. But we’ve got to make those plays. We’ve got to play for 48 minutes.”

Friday’s loss likely means Polk County will need a wild card to qualify for the state 2A playoffs, though the Wolverines are all but assured of earning one. There will be 16 first-round games in the 2A West bracket, with 11 of those being hosted by conference champions. The remaining home games will go to the five remaining highest-ranked teams in the NCHSAA’s RPI ratings.

As of now, Polk County projects to be 2-3 spots out of that top five. A win Saturday evening is vital toward possibly climbing back into that group.

“Our mantra this week is that we have to worry about ourselves more than our opponent,” Ollis said. “That’s not to diminish our opponent at all.

“We’ve got to get better as Wolverines and play for 48 minutes.”

October 27, 1990: Polk County 34, Christ School 0
November 6, 1993: Chase 27, Polk County 7
October 28, 1995: West Henderson 27, Polk County 13
October 28, 2006: Owen 18, Polk County 14
February 27, 2021: Hendersonville 35, Polk County 27