Polk County will look for more turnover-inducing plays against R-S Central such as Steven Chupp's hit on Hendersonville's Malik Angram in last week's game

Wolverines must stop the run to stop the Hilltoppers on Homecoming Night

Polk County faced last week perhaps the area’s best passing attack. Now two of the top running games in the region await over the next three weeks.

Welcome to life in the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference.

R-S Central brings a flexbone approach that has recently found its groove to G.M. Tennant Stadium on Friday for an MF7 clash with the Wolverines. The 7:30 p.m. kickoff will be shown live on NFHS Network and it will also be Homecoming for Polk County, with the 2021 queen crowned at halftime.

Polk County’s Homecoming celebration will begin Friday at 5 p.m. with a parade through downtown Columbus. Note that Mills Street in Columbus will be closed from Hampton Street to Park Street from 5-5:30 p.m.

By then the Wolverine coaching staff will be deep in final pregame preparations for the Hilltoppers (1-3, 1-1). R-S Central’s statsheet indicates the Hilltoppers have rushed for more than 1,000 yards in their past two games, quite a contrast to the Hendersonville aerial assault that racked up more than 250 yards in last week’s 56-25 win over the Wolverines.

“They’re definitely ground-based. That’s their current MO and they make no bones about it,” said Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis. “We are going to have to tackle well and play assignment football. We’re going to see the most option that we’ve seen to date.

“We will have to play really well upfront. Tackling the fullback is first on the agenda. We have to take care of the A gap and move out from there.”

Stopping the fullback, though, is no easy task. R-S Central senior Ken Hines III (6-1, 225) leads the ‘Toppers with 133 yards per game rushing and brings size and speed to his role in the offense. Quarterback Jaiden Coston averages almost 100 yards per game and fellow senior Xavier Toms is averaging more than 14 yards per carry.

R-S Central quarterbacks are just 12-of-32 on the season, and 14 of those attempts came in a season-opening loss at McDowell. The Hilltoppers have since fully committed to the flexbone, resulting in not only the massive rushing total but also 83 points in the past two weeks.

“I expect them to be a little more evolved in what they’re doing with the flexbone,” Ollis said. “We saw a few new things in the offense against Brevard (a 41-30 R-S win).”

Polk’s rushing attack had its best numbers of the season in last week’s loss, with junior Angus Weaver posting the third 200-yard game of his career despite a broken bone in his left hand. The Wolverines struggled a bit early to move the football, though, and that plus a key turnover helped set up Hendersonville scoring drives of 29, 31 and 20 yards in the first quarter.

Turning around that trend will be vital for Polk County (3-2, 1-1), which likely will now need to win its remaining four league games in order to have any shot at the inaugural MF7 title. The Wolverines will have an open date next week before an Oct. 15 matchup with Chase.

“A major concern going into this week is how we respond to some adversity,” Ollis said. “Conference adversity is a little different than non-conference adversity. We’re behind the eight-ball a little bit right now in the conference race.

“I don’t know if someone can go through this conference undefeated or not, but we probably have to win out to be in the conversation. That said, we have to worry about what’s in front of us right now.”