Memorable Owen-Polk County games have become common in a series that began in 2005 with the Wolverines’ move into the Western Highlands Conference.
Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis has a few he hasn’t forgotten. Tops on the list these days is Owen’s 40-33 win a year ago.
“The Owen loss last year still sticks in my craw,” Ollis said. “The head football coach is motivated. I think his team is, too.”
The Wolverines will hope to turn that motivation into another victory and continue the team’s best start in more than a decade in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. matchup in Black Mountain.
It will also be another opportunity for Polk County (7-0, 1-0) to continue perhaps the most unexpected streak in Western North Carolina. The Wolverines have never lost in Black Mountain, winning all seven of their trips to what historically has been one of the tougher away games in the area.
Owen (3-3, 0-1) certainly has an opportunity to end that streak this season. The return of standout lineman Saevion Gibbs (6-3, 325) from Christ School has helped spark the Warhorses, the senior college prospect anchoring a line that has been Owen’s strength.
“Owen has got a good football team,” Ollis said. “They played an awfully good Mitchell team last week that was hitting on all cylinders (a 41-7 loss) and got on a roll.
“We’re not underestimating them. We lost to the Warhorses a year ago, so we’re not underestimating them.”
Owen will line up in a number of formations offensively, but have focused on establishing the run thus far this season. Junior quarterback Caleb Scott (6-3, 225) leads a quartet of backs that have shared running duties this season, but is also a passing threat, having hit 36-of-81 attempts for 565 yards and four scores.
Blake Roberts (44-326) heads the running attack, with Geordon Haggins (7-179) the top receiver.
“They look a lot like us with four guys around 200 yards or more rushing,” Ollis said. “They’re athletic on the edge. They’ll spread the field and get in four wides, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to throw it. They’ve always been a classic off-tackle team, and they love to run the bootleg.”
Stopping the run has been Polk County’s forte this season. The Wolverines have allowed just 315 yards on the ground, including 1.8 yards per carry, in seven games, with Hendersonville the only team to rush for more than 100 yards. The Wolverines have allowed 681 passing yards on 50-of-101 attempts, but Polk has 11 interceptions, with at least one in every game this season.
“We’re playing great team defense,” Ollis said. “Our defense looks a lot like our offense where we don’t have one or two people with a lot of tackles. We just swarm the ball well.”
The trip to Owen will begin a season-ending stretch of three road games in four weeks, all at opponents with at least .500 records or better. It’s the heart of the conference schedule and will test Polk County unlike any of its slate to date.
Ollis thinks the Wolverines are ready for that challenge.
“We’ve been a pretty good road team, and we’re going to be on the road two weeks in a row before we come back home,” Ollis said.
“This team has a quiet confidence. They’re not a rah-rah group. They’ve even got a business-like atmosphere at practice. Certainly, when you’re winning, everything is going well.”