And, just like that, Polk County’s final regular-season game has arrived.
Only seems like yesterday the Wolverines were boarding a bus for Newton-Conover and their season opener. Friday, they’ll make the walk from field house through G.M. Tennant Stadium and on to W.J. Miller Field to battle Brevard in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The game will air live on NFHS Network.
Game one to 10, just like that.
“You get on the train and start at Point A and to get to Point B and here we are,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “It’s pretty amazing how quickly it goes by. Seems like it’s dragging, and all the sudden it’s here.”
The finale arrives with a bit of added importance. A win would enable Polk County (5-4, 3-2) to finish in third place in the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference standings and help improve the Wolverines’ playoff seeding. Brevard (4-5, 3-2) would undoubtedly like to do the same for first-year head coach Luke Coleman.
“It’s a big game for us. I’ve told our players we’re going to treat it like a playoff game,” Ollis said. “It will help us with seeding and we’re playing for third place in the conference, which is not where we wanted to be, but that will still give us a better opportunity to play a lesser-seeded team and maybe not a conference champion in the first round.”
Polk County currently sits 25th in the 2A West RPI ratings that will be used to determine playoff wild cards and also seed all teams. It’s nearly impossible to predict where the Wolverines would be win or lose, but at 25th, Polk would play the eighth overall seed. A win or loss could move Polk up or down a spot or two.
A victory, though, will be no easy thing against a Brevard squad that will offer a familiar look to Polk fans.
“They’ve got a good football team. They’re getting after it,” Ollis said. “They’re very physical. It’s going to look a little bit like an intrasquad game. They get in the pistol and run downhill and play-action pass similar to us.
“They don’t have as many guys playing both ways as we do, but they’ve got some run-fast guys and players we’ve got to be concerned about.”
Nahshon Griffin (77-484-7) leads the Brevard ground game, with PJ Deshauteurs (70-463-4) also a big-play threat. Quarterback Colt Swicegood has been efficient passing (56-101-877), targeting a wide range of receivers led by Leo Maupin and Dillon Galloway.
Brevard trailed Chase just 21-14 at halftime and Hendersonville just 14-0 at halftime en route to setbacks similar to Polk’s efforts against both.
“I was talking to Luke the other night and said, this is going to be a tit-for-tat game,” Ollis said. “It may be that the team that has the ball last wins.
“Our players understand that. We’ve also got the added significance that this is our Senior Night. There’s a lot of young men who have played for us for four years and been an integral part of our program that we’ll recognize starting at 6:55 under the goalposts. I think that always provides a little motivation.”
Looking to help the seniors walk away with a win in what likely will be their final home game is a trio of underclassmen who delivered outstanding performances in last week’s win over East Rutherford.
Junior Bryson Jones stepped in at tight end and helped provide room to run for Angus Weaver and Karlen McEntyre, who “ran downhill as well as I’ve seen him run,” Ollis said. “He’s starting to come into his own. I was pleased with the way he played and the leadership he showed.”
And then there was freshman Nolan Simpson, who moved up from the Polk junior varsity and delivered a near-flawless effort in the Wolverine secondary.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a young man thrust into a starting role and play as well as he did,” Ollis said. “He knocked down every ball that came his way and picked one off, too. We knew they would probably target him, being a short guy, but he just made every play.”
Polk would love to see a similar performance Friday.
“It’d be great to send our seniors off with a lot of support from a huge crowd,” Ollis said. “We’re not going to have the opportunity to come back and play here again. We’ve talked about that this will be the last time you walk up that hill and run through those goalposts and bust through a home banner at our place.
“There’s some finality to that that I want them to understand. But when toe meets leather and the whistle blows, we’ve got to put that behind us and focus on winning the game.”