Call it the calm before the storm.
Polk County’s football squad gets a well-deserved open date this week after nine straight Fridays of action. The Wolverines held no practice on Monday and will do the same on Friday before gearing up for the two biggest games of the season, traveling to Owen on Nov. 1 and hosting Hendersonville on Nov. 8. Were Owen to defeat Hendersonville this Friday, the Wolverines-Warhorses clash would decide the Western Highlands Conference championship. A Hendersonville win would give Polk County sole possession of first place and a chance to control its title fate.
Polk heads into its break on a six-game winning streak, including four straight conference wins in which the Wolverines have averaged almost 50 points per game while giving up an average of 14. Yet despite the huge wave of momentum that has built with each victory, Polk head coach Bruce Ollis welcomes the chance for a late-season breather.
“Open weeks can be a curse or a blessing. I tend to take the latter approach,” Ollis said. “It is good for both players and coaches to get a little down time, particularly near the end of the season when you are entering the home stretch.
“I believe it is positive from a mental and physical standpoint. Our theme this week with be to maintain our edge and improve fundamentally. I don’t believe our players will have any trouble keeping their focus given the place we find ourselves in the (conference).”
The Wolverines remained atop the WHC race, tied with Owen, with a 35-7 road win last Friday at Avery. Quarterback Reece Schlabach ran for three touchdowns and threw for another as Polk County scored on its first three possessions to build a 21-0 halftime lead.
“We really played well on both sides of the ball early on,” Ollis said. “Midway of the second half we had a somewhat of a lull on offense and defense. I did not feel like we maintained our intensity during that period of time. We did pick it up in the fourth and finished very strong. It would have been nice to preserve the shutout but holding Avery to seven was a good night as they had been putting a good number of points on the board.”
Avery entered the game coming off a 51-34 loss to Hendersonville, so the Vikings’ option attack was certainly capable of putting points on the board, having scored at least 27 points in five straight games. But the Polk defense delivered another solid performance, holding Avery to 136 total yards, its second lowest output of the season.
“(Assistant coach) Jamie Thompson came up with a super defensive scheme and the players executed it very well,” Ollis said. “We knew the quarterback (Tre Jackson) was a threat and felt we needed to nullify him to be successful. Their running attack begins with him and we held him in check for the most part. Our secondary played super, no passing yards and only one completion. We are breaking on the ball better and being more physical.”
While the Polk players will get some rest this week, the same will likely not be true for the Wolverine coaching staff. With a conference title in the balance, the midnight oil will be burning around the Polk field house.
“Our coaching staff will probably put in more hours this week than normal as we will already be formulating a Owen game plan,” Ollis said. “On Friday, we will attend the Owen-Hendersonville game as a staff. Having the opportunity to see last two opponents live will really help in our preparation.”