The lows of a 3-8 season? All largely forgotten now for Polk County.

Playoff time. Brand new season. Everyone 0-0.

“I’m trying now to look at everything with a silver lining,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “Certainly this is one for the season we had.

“Right now, we’re playing the best football we’ve played all season and the playoffs are here.”

Polk County will make its 19th straight playoff appearance on Friday, traveling to East Wilkes to face the Cardinals in the opening round of the 1AA playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Ronda, with a live audio broadcast available from WWWC-AM (

Polk County (3-8) enters as the 11th seed in the 1AA West bracket, with the Cardinals (7-4) the sixth seed. Under first-year head coach Jonathan Wilmoth, East Wilkes raced to a 6-1 start this season before losing three of its final four games.

“They’ve had a tale of two seasons,” Ollis said. “They had a tough game with Alleghany where they lost by a close score (21-13), and they went into a little spiral after that.”

The Cardinals are led offensively by senior running back Jayveon Ross (157 carries, 1,263 yards, 13 touchdowns) and junior quarterback Caeden Howell. East Wilkes has operated out of a spread formation all season, with Howell not taking snaps from under center.

“They’re a big play team,” Ollis said. “Their running back has run for close to 1,300 yards. He’s a good inside runner and a good outside runner. He also plays outside linebacker and plays it well. He’s not quite the running back from East Rutherford (Demetrius Mauney), but he’s that style of player for them.

“The quarterback throws the ball well and runs the ball well, and he’s got some good kids to throw the ball to.”

Polk County has had a two-week break since its season-ending win over Madison, which Ollis called the team’s most complete performance this season. Senior Hayden Shumate may return from injury and see some playing time Friday, and junior Bryson Seay will likely see additional team on defense than he did at Madison.

“When Hayden went down, Jared Searcy came in in his absence and has done a good job at right guard,” Ollis said. “Hayden is excited about possibly getting back on the field, being a senior.

“The players are excited about being in the playoffs, the challenge and opportunity to be resilient. I told the team that once we got into the playoffs, we’re going to be a tough out for anybody.”