Mountain Heritage head football coach Joey Robinson chuckled when asked for his thoughts on Polk County.
“The healthy one or the unhealthy one?” Robinson said, referring to Polk’s run of early-season injuries. “The healthy one is pretty scary.”
Not that Mountain Heritage won’t bring its own fear factors into Friday’s Western Highlands Conference showdown with the Wolverines, slated for 7:30 p.m. in Burnsville (WJFJ-AM, 1160).
The Cougars enter the fray with a four-game winning streak, including an impressive 36-21 win last week over Hendersonville. That victory marked the first conference loss for the Bearcats since a 21-20 setback to Mitchell on Oct. 7, 2011, a span of 10 league games, and their first home conference loss since ending the 2010 season with a 20-7 decision to Polk County.
It also marked the first time Mountain Heritage has won at Hendersonville and just the Cougars’ second win over Hendersonville since 2005. All of which has Mountain Heritage riding a high entering Friday’s game.
“It was huge for us, especially considering that we go Hendersonville-Polk-Owen. That’s a pretty rough stretch to open the conference,” Robinson said. “We’ve got the next two at home, so to win the road game of the three is huge.
“The biggest thing it has done is given us a big boost of confidence.”
And confidence is just one of the reasons why the Cougars have already matched their win total of each of the past two seasons.
The constant factor in Mountain Heritage’s four-game streak has been its explosive offense. The Cougars are averaging 36.7 points per game this season, with four games of 40 or more points, and racked up more than 500 yards of total offense against Hendersonville.
Quarterback Trevor Robinson, the coach’s son and an all-conference pick last year, has again been the driving force of the Heritage attack. Robinson has had three games with both 100 yards rushing and passing and he leads the team in both categories (112 carries for 742 yards rushing, 55-of-95 for 862 yards passing). He’s accounted for 23 total touchdowns for the season, including 13 on the ground.
“He’s not making many mistakes,” the elder Robinson said. “He’s just a football player that makes good decisions. He’s not a speed demon and he’s not the most physical player, but he makes good decisions. When we need a big play, he’s gotten one for us.”
Dalton Robinson has rushed for 585 yards and five touchdowns on 97 carries, and Jake McClellan leads the team in receiving with 22 catches for 353 yards and three scores.
“We have a lot of people back, and they’ve run this offense since the third grade, so a lot of it is familiarity,” Robinson said of the team’s offensive success. “Part of it is us knowing who we are. We get in the right places, we took good angles and we do the right things.”
Robinson expects Polk County, which holds a 5-3 edge in the series since the two teams moved into the Western Highlands Conference in 2005, to also do the right things on Friday night.
“Coach (Bruce) Ollis is a phenomenal football coach,” Robinson said. “We’ve never played them when they’ve not been prepared. When you play them, you know you have to beat their best.
“Right now, they appear to be peaking, which is scary. They’re unbelievably well coached everywhere. Defensively, they’re solid. Offensively, Coach Ollis isn’t going to flash you to death. He’s got his trick plays and his formations. But he has his system, knows how to play that system and knows how to react to what you’re doing to stop him.”
The game could ultimately come down to Polk’s ability to play well at Mountain Heritage, a venue at which opponents often struggle, and how well the Cougars can slow the Polk offense. Mountain Heritage is allowing 33.7 points per game this season, althogh that figure is skewed by the 55 points scored by an Erwin squad that is currently the class of Western North Carolina. Heritage also suffered a 41-34 loss to Patton before reeling off wins over North Buncombe, Rosman West Henderson and then Hendersonville.
“We have to win the turnover battle, no doubt about it,” Robinson said of Friday’s matchup. “We’ve got to have some big plays on defense. One of the key stats will be tackles for loss. We’ve got to get them behind the chains some. The same for them. Whoever can get the other in some third-and-longs is going to have the upper hand.”