A conference championship may be out of reach, but Polk County still has much to play for in its final two regular-season games.
The Wolverines begin their end-of-season home run on Friday, hosting East Rutherford for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. PCHS will celebrate Homecoming, with the 2022 queen crowned at halftime, and the game will also air on NFHS Network.
It’s been a bit of a bumpy week for the Wolverines as Polk (4-4, 2-2) looks to recover from Friday’s 48-27 loss at Chase while also battling the wave of sickness that has rolled through school halls this week.
“We’ve got to get over the week before,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “I think that one sticks with me and our team for a while.
“But now we’ve got to FIDO (forget it and drive on). Certainly being at home the last two games is a positive for us. Right now, our only focus is East Rutherford.”
Paired with prepartion for the Cavaliers (1-8, 0-5) has been an emphasis on delivering four quarters of consistent play. Ollis pointed to last week’s loss where Polk led Chase at halftime, but were outscored 20-0 in the third quarter and 34-6 in the second half.
“What we’re talking about this week is playing for 48 minutes, and if we can find a way to do that, we’re a pretty good football team,” he said. “We’ve played some good halves, the first half good sometimes, the second half good sometimes.
“The second half of the Patton game, the first half against Chase, we were awfully good. We’ve got to find a way to play a complete game. So that’s what we’re preaching to our players this week.”
Polk will face a young East Rutherford team, the Cavaliers beginning a rebuilding effort after not fielding a varsity team a season ago. Quarterback Landon Flynn is a freshman. Leading rusher Brandon Pinkerton is a freshman. Leading receiver Blake McClellan is a sophomore. Only senior receiver Aiden Lynch offers extensive varsity experience at the skill positions for East.
The Cavaliers enter off a 48-8 loss to R-S Central.
“I think East Rutherford will come over here and battle hard,” Ollis said. “They’ve been throwing the ball more than they run it. They get in no-back a lot. Young quarterback who throws the ball really well. Most of their routes are short, what we call 90 series with three-step routes, which doesn’t lend to a lot of pressure being placed on the quarterback.
“We’re going to have to play better coverage than we did last week.”
Polk won’t have Keaundrae Green available as the sophomore joins Jadyn Virgil and Kole Powell on the sideline with season-ending injuries. The Wolverines will also play a wait-and-see game on Friday as far as who is healthy enough to take the field.
“We’ve made the decision to bring up Lorenzo Sanchez,” Ollis said. “That hurts our JV team as he was their most dynamic player. BUt right now he needs to fill a void for us because we’ve got some guys in the secondary that need to be challenged a bit and he can do that.
“Plus he can run the football well, too. Even only being about a buck 30, he’s still pretty productive as a runner. That’s something we’re going to take a look at and I think he’s pretty excited about being a varsity player the rest of the year.”
The final two games may determine whether Polk qualifies for the state 2A playoffs and, if so, how high a seed the Wolverines receive. Ollis hopes a large Homecoming crowd will help give Polk a push in that direction.
“I think the crowd will be huge,” he said. “I think a lot of people want to come out and be involved in that. In many cases, this is the only game that some fans attend, so we want to leave a good taste in their mouth.
“Hopefully the home crowd will be cheering for the home team and that will provide us some impetus.”