Stamped in big, bold letters at the bottom of Polk County’s scouting report this week was a single word – rectify.
It’s been a topic of discussion throughout Wolverine practices this week in advance of Friday’s second-round 1AA playoff game at Western Highlands Conference rival Mitchell. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Ledger.
Defeated 33-0 three weeks ago at home by the Mountaineers (10-1), Polk County (9-3) knows an even more challenging task awaits in trying to go to Mitchell and earn a victory. But the Wolverines are eager for the rematch primarily to have a second chance at a solid performance following an initial effort that nearly everyone in blue and white deemed lackluster.
“Given our position, it’s certainly a positive thing,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “We’ve called it a rectification project, a chance to rectify our mistakes from the first time.
“Mitchell is an incredibly talented football team, one of the best 1A football teams in the state. We know we have our work cut out for us. But our players and coaches are excited about the chance to play them again.”
That anticipation stems from how poorly Polk County felt it played in the shutout loss in the Wolverines’ regular-season home finale. It marked the first time in five years that Polk County had been shut out, the Wolverines surrendered a season-high 239 yards rushing and were held under 100 yards rushing on offense.
“We made so many mental and physical mistakes,” Ollis said. “We’ve diminished those by at least one-third over the past two weeks. That’s been a huge point of emphasis, just getting more locked in, and that’s how we have to play Friday.
“We went to Burnsville (a 28-21 loss to Mountain Heritage) and were 10 times better there than we were against Mitchell.”
Mitchell is led by senior quarterback Noah Pitman, who gashed Polk County for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and also threw for a score. Pitnam delivered huge runs every time Mitchell needed them in the first meeting, and Ollis said trying to prevent a repeat of that will be key to Polk’s hopes.
“Pitman is just a great player,” he said. “He’s going to get his yards. We just have to hope we can keep him from hitting home runs. It’s like playing a team with Michael Jordan on it. You hope you can hold him to 30 points instead of 50.
“He’s like a fullback playing quarterback. When he gets moving, he’s got a lot of lateral quickness to go with his speed and size.”
Polk County also faced a challenge last season in the playoffs’ second round, meeting a talented North Rowan squad as the third of four straight road games. The Wolverines earned a 14-7 win in that matchup, and with many of the players from that game back this season, Ollis hopes that experience will be useful at Mitchell.
But, make no mistake – the veteran head coach is well aware that the Mountaineers present a much stiffer test than anyone that Polk County faced a year ago.
“You’ve got to beat great teams along the way somewhere to advance, and Mitchell is a great team,” Ollis said. “We’ve talked about trying to go 1-0 every week. We were 1-0 last week (a 41-21 win over East Wilkes) and now that’s behind us.
“Play, win, advance – that’s our focus and I think our players have bought into that. I think this is going to be a great football game.”