The most recent Western Highlands Conference championship banner adorning the walls of the Polk County High field house is dated 2010.
Current Wolverine senior Chase McMurray occasionally watched games that year from the Polk sidelines, a freshman dressed out mainly for a taste of what Friday night lights are all about.
What the experience did, though, was leave McMurray hungry for another conference championship, one in which he had a direct hand, something he’s reminded of every time he sets foot in the Polk locker room.
“I wasn’t much a part of that (the 2010 title), but it’s still nice to see the banner hanging up there and think I was on the field then,” McMurray said. “But that’s my number one goal, to win another conference championship.”
The Wolverines can do just that Friday night at Owen, facing the Warhorses in a matchup that will ensure the winner at least a share of the WHC title. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
A two-way starter for the Wolverines, McMurray expects to be at the forefront of the battle he thinks will ultimately determine Friday night’s winner.
“The key to beating Owen is the offensive and defensive lines,” McMurray said. “That’s the strongest part of their team. They’ve always been a big, physical team. We’ve got to win the offensive and defensive lines.”
The 290-pound McMurray set a personal record with a bench press of 320 pounds last week, so he knows a thing or two about being big and physical. As a senior, McMurray also knows a few things about this year’s Wolverines, enough to see some unique traits about this squad as compared to years past.
“Honestly, every year I’ve played varsity, in practice a lot of times everyone has just gone through the motions,” he said. “This year, when we’re out there practicing, it’s game like. Everyone is fired up, and it definitely feels a lot different.”
That intensity has helped the Wolverines rebound from an 0-3 start to win their last six games, a streak in which the play of the Polk defense has been instrumental. The Wolverines held Avery to 136 yards rushing and passing in their most recent win, a 35-7 romp, and have held three of their last four opponents below 10 points.
McMurray has contributed 37 tackles to that effort, including eight tackles for loss, tied for second on the team.
“It just took us some time to get things right in games,” McMurray said. “The defense has really stepped up a lot. We started off a little rocky, but we were playing some very good teams to start with. We were kind of young, and it just took us a little bit to get going. We’ve really picked it up and I’m proud of what we’ve done.
“We can go all the way this year. We really can. I really believe that.”
A journey that would, of course, begin with another banner for the field house.
Photos: Jane Ollis