It’s been slightly more than two months since Polk County opened its 2021 football season with a win over Newton-Conover.
Twists and turns, losses and wins, all part of a road that has led the Wolverines to Friday’s regular-season finale at Brevard, the ending to what head coach Bruce Ollis typically refers to as the third phase of a given season (offseason and preseason being the first two).
“It’s like I tell the freshmen at the start of their first year, before you know it you’ll turn around twice and you’ll be walking across the stage to get your diploma,” Ollis said. “It can go by that fast.
“It also seems like forever ago that we started back in July. But here we are on the precipice of the end of the season.”
The regular-season finale will kick off in Brevard at 7 p.m., with the game to be broadcast live on WMYA-TV. Both teams will have playoffs top of mind, but for differing reasons.
Polk County (5-3) is solidly qualified for the postseason and has a shot at a first-round home game. The Wolverines currently project as the 16th seed in the 2A West and likely need a win and a bit of help in other games in order to remain at least 16th, the cutoff for hosting.
Brevard (3-5), meanwhile, sits 29th in the 2A West RPI, the rating system in use this season to determine playoff qualifiers and seeds. The Blue Devils would almost certainly earn a postseason trip with a victory, but will face a nervous Saturday awaiting the announcement of pairings with a loss.
“I’m sure (Brevard coach Craig Pritchett) is telling his players that it’s a playoff game,” Ollis said. “I expect a great performance from them. It’s going to be challenging.”
The Blue Devils have had an uneven season, opening the year with a win over Robbinsville and a narrow loss to Asheville that began a three-game losing streak. Once into Mountain Foothills 7 Conference play, Brevard topped Patton, but suffered double-digit losses to all other league foes.
Senior quarterback Joe Powell (54-98-7, 767 yards, 8 TDs) leads a balanced offense with per-game averages of 137 yards rushing and 136 yards passing. Senior Garrett Swicegood (54-323-2) is the team’s top rusher, with senior Kyle Lovett (32-507-4) the top receiving option.
“(Swicegood) is a really talented player,” Ollis said. “It’s hard to decide if he’s better offensively or defensively. I’ve been really impressed with him.
“They get after it defensively. They run a 3-4 and they play aggressively. It’s also going to be Senior Night, so that will be some extra motivation for them.”
Polk County makes the Halloween weekend trip to Transylvania County coming off perhaps its best all-around effort of the season, Saturday’s 30-0 shutoff of Draughn. The Wolverines treated that road trip as similar to a playoff game and plan to adopt the same approach this week.
“We had a half-dozen players play the best game of the year,” Ollis said, citing senior Steven Chupp as the leader of that group. “We challenged them about that, to take the approach that they don’t want to play good, but play great.
“You saw the results against a pretty good Draughn team.”
The Wolverines will hope for similar success as the begin building for the postseason.