Polk County's Karlen McEntyre finds room to run during last week's win over Landrum

Polk begins conference title chase as Patton visits

It’s another season opener for Polk County’s football program.

A debut, at least, in the lens of how the Wolverines approach each season, with preseason and the non-conference schedule each their own mini-blocks within the larger schedule.

The same holds true for conference play, and Polk County begins its quest for a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference title on Friday, hosting Patton for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The game will also be streamed live on NFHS Network.

The Wolverines will look to continue building on the momentum of last week’s 49-7 thumping of Landrum against a Patton squad still looking for its first win. The Panthers, coached by former Polk assistant Mark Duncan, are off to an 0-4 start.

“This is our third season, the conference season, which I think we as a staff put more focus on this,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “Not that we don’t think the other games are important, but winning a conference title gets you a number one seed to the playoffs and that kind of thing.

“If you’re going to do that, you’ve got to win your first conference game.”

Perhaps helping Polk in that quest is facing an opponent very similar to its last one. Much like Landrum, Patton offers a run-dominant offense, having called 198 running plays this season with just 11 passes. The Panthers will offer a spread formation with quarterback Randan Clarke in the shotgun, but nearly every snap, Clarke or leading rusher Trevor Smith are going to look to move upfield on the ground.

“They’re very similar, perhaps more similar than you know,” Ollis said. “When you go (198 to 11) on this end, we know what we have to stop.

“They’ve got a big 6-4, 220-pound quarterback that’s one of their better runners and their tailback is a good player. Combined they’ve gone for almost 700 yards.”

Polk would love nothing more than to also see a repeat of its offensive effort against Landrum. The Wolverines neared 550 yards of total offense, with Angus Weaver rushing for 224 yards and Antonio Simpson setting a school record with 224 receiving yards. Ollis said a group of oft-unsung heroes played a key role in that showing.

“We really played well up front,” he said. “(Assistant coach) Dustin Fry has really got those boys playing well. Every played graded out. That doesn’t happen a lot, and I think that builds their confidence, too.

“Karlen McEntyre made what I thought was the best run he’d ever made. It was called back, but we had a lead draw, and he pierced that A gap and ran downhill like I knew he could. Even though it was called back, I pointed it out on film, there’s the Karlen McEntyre I know he can be, which can complement what Angus does.”