Peaking Wolverines ready for playoff rematch with North Rowan

Polk County’s football team followed up practice Wednesday morning with a BBQ lunch.

Head coach Bruce Ollis played the role of server, filling each player’s plate with meat and sides as they passed through the line inside the Wolverines’ weight room.

Ollis had a smile on his face the entire time – because if you’re practicing and eating the day before Thanksgiving, that means you’ve got at least one playoff win in hand and an opportunity for more.

Such is the case Friday for Polk County as the Wolverines travel to North Rowan for a second-round 1AA playoff tilt. The 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Spencer will be a rematch of the 2017 first-round game in which Polk County handed North Rowan a 30-22 defeat in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

No doubt the Cavaliers (9-2) will have that affair in mind when the Wolverines (4-8) visit.

“I’m sure they got what they wanted, to try to rectify the situation from last year,” Ollis said.

Those who witnessed the Wolverines’ win last season may recall North Rowan running back Jaleel Webster, who tormented Polk’s defense for more than 300 total yards in the matchup, accounting for almost all of the Cavaliers’ offense in the game.

Webster has taken his talents to Averitt College. His replacement, junior Malcolm Wilson, merely set a school record with 1,723 yards rushing while also scoring 25 touchdowns. For good measure, Wilson is also second on the team with 19 receptions for 253 yards.

Senior quarterback Willis Mitchell has thrown for 1,390 yards and 16 touchdowns on 83-of-158 attempts.

“Other than (Webster), almost everybody is back from last year,” Ollis said. “What we have to do defensively is keep (Wilson) from getting going, keep him hemmed in. A year ago they hurt us with the screen pass, and that’s still part of what they do, so we’ve got to defend that.”

The Cavaliers have also been tough defensively, giving up just 84 points in 11 games and posting six shutouts. North Stanly scored 43 of those 84 points in its win at North Rowan in October, West Rowan scored 20 in a win in August. Those are the only teams to crack double digits against North Rowan this season.

The Cavaliers haven’t played a game since Nov. 7, a 59-0 rout of North Moore. Polk County, meanwhile, enters coming off back-to-back wins for the first time this season, including last week’s 33-16 victory at East Wilkes.

“The great thing for us is that while we’re 4-8, we’re playing the best football we’ve played all year,” Ollis said. “We’ve picked a good time to be healthy and, at the same, time, execute awfully well on both sides of the football.

“We’ve had a great week of practice. Probably the best thing I can say about our players is that they’re playing with confidence. We’re healthy and we’re executing well, and that’s a great combination.”