As they’ve done a few times this season, Polk County’s football team will hop on a bus Friday and hit the road for an away game.
They’ll arrive early, eat, tape, stretch, do some drills on the field and prepare for kickoff. Play 48 minutes, 100 yards from end zone to end zone, team with the most points wins. Just like every other game this season.
That’s how the Wolverines are approaching Friday’s trip to East Surry.
Except this game is just a bit different.
The 1AA West Regional title and a trip to next week’s state championship awaits the winner of the clash of Cardinals and Wolverines, set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in East Surry’s Diamont Stadium. Tickets must be purchased online for those attending. The game will also air on the NFHS Network.
Polk County has never played in a state championship game and will face a challenge in doing so this season; East Surry (8-1) is the defending state champion, has played in the past two finals and has outscored opponents 362-102 this season. Reidsville accounted for 48 of those 102 points in the Cardinals’ lone loss, a 48-14 setback in Week 2.
But rather than dwell on the level of opponent or scope of the game, Polk County is just trying to keep its focus on doing business as usual.
“We’re trying to approach it as this is another playoff game, and we’re not trying to call this our Super Bowl,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “Certainly, it’s a feather in these young men’s caps to achieve this goal. But our focus has been to become the best team we can be this coming Friday night.
“We’ve tried to make it business as usual, but I think most people realize that it’s not, given that it’s a regional final. But that’s the approach we’ve taken. We haven’t tried to overplay the game and we’ve tried to prepare just like we prepare every other week to hone our skills, to come focused and play our best on Friday night.”
Polk County’s best will be needed against an East Surry team that has been nearly unstoppable most of the season. Outside of the loss at Reidsville, the Cardinals have had just two games decided by fewer than 40 points (wins over North Davidson and Mount Airy), and only Reidsville scored more than 12 points.
Easy Surry’s offense is led by sophomore quarterback Folger Boaz (92-of-151, 1680 yards, 16 TDs). Replacing older brother Jefferson, who led the Cardinals to the 2019 1AA title before signing with North Carolina, Folger Boaz has directed an offense that features four players with 15 or more receptions as well as senior running back Luke Bullington (814 yards, 17 TDs).
Layton Allen (33 catches, 647 yards, four TDs) and Benji Gosnell (32-582-7) lead the receiving corps. Gosnell’s 65 tackles lead a defense that has recorded 23 sacks and 50 tackles for loss.
“They play with a lot of swagger,” Ollis said. “You can see it on film, and they ought to. You can tell when you watch a team on film when they’re confident. They’re a very confident football team.
“They throw and catch the ball as well as anybody we’ve seen and they run it pretty well, too. They’re big up front on defense. From a receiver standpoint, they run very precision routes. The Boaz kid is a left-hander and he can really spin the ball.”
Ollis knows Polk County needs to spin the ball a bit more this week after throwing just eight passes in last week’s 30-27 victory at North Rowan. Granted, the Wolverines didn’t need to throw it much more with sophomore Angus Weaver carrying 34 times for a career-best 230 yards and three touchdowns.
“You feed the guy that’s eating at the trough, and (Weaver) was the guy the other night that they couldn’t handle,” Ollis said. “He four or five-yarded them to death, and that moves the chains.
“We’ve got to do a better job of finishing drives. We had three turnovers for the first time all year, and that really put us in a bad spot. We have to eliminate that and we’ve got to throw and catch the ball a bit better. And we’ve got to be able to protect Casey (Beiler).”
East Surry’s field is named for longtime head coach Dave Diamont, who won more than 250 games at the school. Ollis is good friends with Diamont, who was close to Ollis’ father, Jim. While watching game film this week, Ollis took a photo of the scoreboard bearing Diamont’s name and sent it to his friend.
He would love nothing more than to take another photo of that scoreboard on Friday evening, one reflecting a Polk County win unlike any in school history.
“Our focus this week has not been so much our opponent, but making the Wolverines better,” Ollis said. “Certainly you have to prepare for the next opponent, but if we improve our game and pay that upfront price, things will take care of themselves.”