Polk County's offensive line will be challenged by a quick North Rowan defensive front

Bruce Ollis never had a doubt last week how he would spend his birthday evening.

Road trip to Spencer to watch North Rowan dismantle Community School of Davidson 66-26 in the first round of the state 1AA playoffs.

“I think there’s high value in watching teams play live,” Ollis said. “I saw a pretty good football team.”

Polk County coaches and players will get a firsthand look at that Cavalier team on Friday as the Wolverines travel to North Rowan for a 1AA quarterfinal matchup. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will not be broadcast.

It will be the third time in the pat four seasons that the two teams have met in the postseason, with Polk County (5-1) winning the 2017 and 2018 games. Adding a third straight win over the Cavaliers (5-2) will be a challenge.

Under first-year head coach Nygel Pearson, North Rowan has been explosive offensively all season, but especially so the past two weeks. Much of that has to do with 5-10, 200-pound senior quarterback Kyree Sims, a dual threat who passed for 191 yards and rushed for 126 in the Cavaliers’ playoff opener.

“The quarterback could be anybody’s tailback,” Ollis said. “And he throws the deep ball pretty well.

“They’re very athletic on the edge with three or four receivers that are 6-2 or better. They offer some problems with the amount of speed they have.”

One of those receivers, sophomore Amari McArthur, has emerged as Sims’ favorite target of late, scoring four touchdowns in the past two games. He had four catches for 115 yards and two scores in the first half of the playoff win. Tailback Zay Davis powers the Cavaliers’ running game along with Sims. He had 156 yards and two scores last week.

Those players, plus a quick defense that recorded six interceptions against CSD, will test a Polk County team that hasn’t played a game since March 26, a 42-20 win over Avery. A positive COVID-19 test in the program shut down the Wolverines for two weeks, then Polk earned a first-round playoff forfeit last week as North Stanly had its own COVID issues.

Ollis is eager to see how the Wolverines handle that four-week layoff come Friday evening, especially after watching the team during workouts the past two weeks.

“We’ve had a great two weeks of practice,” he said. “One thing that we’ve talked about is not worrying about things we can’t control. Our players have approached the playoffs with a very business-like attitude. I’ve been very impressed with the way they have handled themselves.

“We’ve talked about how we don’t need to be at a fever pitch on Friday at 7 o’clock. We need to be focused. I’m looking forward to seeing how we execute after not being in a game situation for four weeks.”

One thing that Polk is trying not to focus on is the chance to make a bit of school history. No Wolverine team has ever played in a regional final, with the 2018 team that beat North Rowan the last group to get within a game of doing so. The limited playoff field and odd set of circumstances has given Polk one last shot at accomplishing that feat before the school moves up next season to the 2A level.

“We know Polk County has never been to a regional final,” Ollis said. “We’re trying not to think about that, but we know it’s in the back of everyone’s minds.

“I’m excited for our football team. We’ve just got to do what we do – run the ball well, throw it a little bit. For the last four games, we’ve also played great on defense. That’s a pretty good recipe for success.”

NOTES: Ollis said the Wolverines will make a stop Friday at West Cabarrus High School, where former Polk assistant Brandon Gentry is now the head coach. Polk will have its pregame meal and walkthrough before traveling on to North Rowan. . . Ollis said Polk County is as healthy as it has been all season. . . Pearson coached collegiately at South Carolina State and Catawba before accepting the North Rowan job last spring. . . The winner of Friday’s game will face the winner of the Pine Lake Prep-East Surry game.