Polk hopes to stay on the plus side in conference clash with Owen

It is the simplest of systems, and yet Polk County head football coach Bruce Ollis swears by its value and accuracy.

Throughout his coaching career, Ollis has graded every play of every game with either a plus or minus. Positive plays get a plus, negative outcomes receive a minus and it’s as simple as that. It’s a system that can be used for individual players as well as teams.

Ollis will grade a full game, then add up the plusses and minuses to produce a single total. Often the result will very closely match the final score of the game in review.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Ollis said. “We can break down offense, defense and special teams. I place a lot of importance on winning individual plays and winning individual battles.”

One recent game didn’t meet those expectations – Polk County’s 20-14 loss to Owen in the 2019 season. As the teams prepare to meet Friday at 7 p.m. in G.M. Tennent Stadium for the first time since that encounter, Ollis has been reminding this year’s Wolverines of how that 2019 game transpired and the lessons to be learned from it.

“Owen has got a good football team, and the evidence of that is the fact they’ve beaten us in close games the past two years,” Ollis said. “Three plays decided the game the last time. They ran a kickoff back, they broke a sweep 95 yards for a touchdown and they stopped us on a fourth-and-goal at the 2. That’s 21 points.

“We were plus-15 in that game (in Ollis’ ratings). But those three plays made the difference.”

Polk County grabbed a 39-0 lead at halftime of Friday’s 53-7 win at Madison; the Wolverines were +39 for the half in the plus/minus system, with 66 positive plays in the half. Ollis was especially pleased with an offense that eventually scored on its first eight possession.

“We hit on all cylinders Friday night offensively,” he said. “I think that showed what we are capable of. We had a lot of mental mistakes at Hendersonville, but we cut those in half against East Rutherford and we cut those in half again at Madison.

“If we can get those down to something managable, we can be really good.”

The number of plusses that Polk County earns on Friday may depend largely on how well the Wolverines slow Owen senior quarterback Caleb Scott. The 6-3, 220-pound Scott, bound next season for Western Carolina, has thrown for 536 yards and five touchdowns while running for 148 yards and two scores. Junior Jacob Price leads Owen with nine catches for 207 yards and two scores.

Senior Dequan Boyce has rushed for 146 yards and two scores and also has six catches for 137 yards and two scores.

“The quarterback is an outstanding player. He may be the most physical player on their team,” Ollis said. “He also plays a good defensive end, too. They’ve got good team speed that we’re going to have to contain by playing team defense.”

The rains that soaked Polk County most of this week didn’t dampen the Wolverines’ enthusiasm, Ollis said, as Polk returns home for the first of three home games in the next four weeks.

“I’ve got a great feeling about where our team is now,” he said. “Our guys are very focused.

“This is our second home game and our first Western Highlands Conference game at home, and I’d like to see us put as many fans in here as we are allowed. Let’s sell all the tickets we can and have a great crowd to support the Wolverines.”

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