Call it a chance for a clean start.
Polk County moves Friday into conference play, opening its Mountain Foothills 7 Conference schedule with a trip to Patton for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Wolverines will travel to Morganton looking to erase the bitter taste of a three-game losing steak to end the non-conference part of its schedule. That includes last week’s 47-21 setback at Landrum in which turnovers and special teams miscues derailed Polk’s hopes for a win.
“Obviously we’re down after losing three straight,” said Polk County head coach Dustin Fry. “We told them that it’s the team’s decision on which way this is going to go. We haven’t started conference play yet, so you can either walk around moping or you can go back to work.
“It’s actually been pretty good this week. We have gone back to work.”
A focal point of that practice effort has been addressing the errors that pervaded losses at West Henderson and Landrum. The mistakes that show up on the stat sheet are not the only issues of concern, Fry noted, pointing to the onside kick that Landrum recovered to open the game and a fake punt that helped set up the Cardinals’ first score.
“We can’t win any games with three fumbles and two picks, but you also go with seven turnovers because you had the onside kick and then you had the fake punt,” Fry said. “That’s really seven turnovers in a game. That’s huge. I felt like we could move the ball on Landrum and we could score on them. But when you turn the ball over that many times, you just lose so many opportunities, and that just killed us.
“Defensively, not being able to stop the run, we’re not doing a great job getting off blocks and pursuing the ball, just things like that.”
One positive for Polk County in its first four games has been its offensive play. Save for the 48-6 loss at West Henderson, facing a defense that may be one of the area’s best, the Wolverines have shown an ability to move the ball both via the air and ground. Loreynzo Sanchez totalled 101 yards rushing at Landrum and has averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
“It’s been nice that we’ve been able to move the ball pretty decently on offense, other than our self-inflicted mistakes,” Fry said. “It’s nice how LoSan has been able to catch the ball out of the backfield as well as run the ball.
“Defensively, I really think Nolan Simpson has done a great job. You turn on the film and everything he does, it stands out, how he works, his effort. He’s 130 pounds and he plays much bigger than that. That’s been exciting to see, how he’s developed into a really good football player.”
Polk County will look to Sanchez, Simpson and teammates to help the Wolverines regain momentum and open conference play with a win against a Patton squad that has also struggled thus far this season, opening with an 0-4 mark. The Panthers dropped a 56-6 decision last week to Freedom and own a seven-game losing streak dating back to last year.
The Wolverines, though, are less worried about Patton and more concerned with righting the ship and preparing for the rigors of conference play.
“We’ve just got to get back to the rally around the football mentality on defense,” Fry said. “Get lined up, chase the ball, get off blocks defensively. We’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve got to protect the quarterback better.
“It’s been kind of up and down as far as our progress. We make strides, and some of the things we made strides on, we go back and forth. But there have been some positives, and hopefully as we keep going through the conference, we’re going to keep getting better.”