I admit, I’m a longtime fan of what’s known in journalism circles as notebooks.

You’ve undoubtedly read them – a series of items, often allowing the writer to go beyond game coverage or regular coverage. Or allowing the writer to share observations and notes collected in the regular work, but not part of regular coverage.

The revamped PolkNotes is going to be just that, a weekly collection of news, notes and nuggets. Throw in some photos, maybe a video – hopefully, always interesting and enjoyable.

Away we go.

The first version of the state champions sign at the entrance of Polk County High School has been replaced (see photo above).

Workers last week erected a new model of the sign, featuring the eight Wolverine teams that have won state titles. The new sign has a larger font, making it easier for passersby to read, and also fixes a scuff that made one of the years tough to read.

The new setup also has a much easier means to add new champions to the sign, something that school athletic officials would love to be doing in the near future.

One of my favorite aspects of sports photography – and videography – is looking at the details away from the main action. Quite often the action on the fringe is just as intriguing as what’s in focus.

Take Loreynzo Sanchez’s 93-yard interception return Friday in Polk County’s 33-7 win over Madison. In the video below from NFHS Network, take note of the Polk sidelines and watch the enthusiasm displayed by Wolverine Christian Roman as Sanchez nears the end zone. Roman is wearing jersey 34 and can be seen near the 25-yard line as Sanchez passes.

Getting that excited about a teammate’s accomplishment – that’s what coaches love to see.

The week ahead is going to offer an interesting early-season measuring stick for the top two volleyball teams in the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference.

Polk County and Brevard split the MF7 regular-season title a year ago, with the Blue Devils winning the postseason tournament (against a depleted and ill Wolverine squad) and then going on to reach the 2A West Regional final. Brevard returns a handful of players from that squad and easily swept T.C. Roberson in its season opener last week.

Asheville Christian Academy won the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A state title last season. The Lions did lose a number of players from that squad, but are still expected to be one of the stronger teams in Western North Carolina this season.

On Tuesday, ACA travels to Brevard. On Wednesday, ACA hosts Polk County. Not that the results will offer any definitive insight as to the relative strenghts of the two programs, but nonetheless it will be fascinating to see how each MF7 power handles the defending state champions.

For Polk County, the ACA game is sandwiched between home games against 2-0 Rosman and an 0-1 A.C. Reynolds team that was swept last week by West Henderson. Three matches in three nights against quality opposition – Wolverine head coach Molly Hill is certainly testing her talented team in the early portion of the season.

Polk County head football coach Dustin Fry wore a pretty large smile Friday evening as he talked about the Wolverines’ win over Madison.

But not everything felt rosy about the victory. A number of Polk County players dealt with cramps in the second half. And then there were the penalty flags that flew much too often for Fry’s liking during the evening.

“Obviously, the cramping was an issue, which is disappointing,” Fry said. “Being able to sub in and out when guys go down, we’ve got to be better at that a little bit.

“It’s always easier to do and watch film when you’re 1-0. But we’ve got a lot to clean up. I didn’t like how many penalties we had. I didn’t like our lack of discipline at times, after the snap, lining up wrong sometimes. Those are all things that we’ve got to clean up.”

Fry became the third Polk County coach to win in his debut, joining Dennis Stokes and Jeff Wilson, who also got his first career win at home against Madison, that coming in 1997.

You should never shoot photos facing the sun. But doing so Wednesday at East Henderson did gave James Purtill a bit of a glow as he headed away a loose ball during the Wolverines’ 3-3 draw.

A pretty cool moment happened Friday just before the start of the Brevard-Pisgah football game in Canton.

The evening was already an emotional one – the Bears were playing their first game in Pisgah Memorial Stadium since March 2021 after severe flooding later that year forced extensive repairs to the field and stadium. Canton residents were also shocked earlier this year when Evergreen Packaging announced the closing of the paper mill that has been Canton’s heartbeat for more than 100 years.

Governor Roy Cooper attended Friday’s game and took part in the pregame coin flip. But one more special moment awaited those who gathered in the stands.

Earlier in the week, workers climbed Pisgah’s scoreboard and installed one of the two whistles that sat atop the Canton mill and sounded throughout the town multiple times per day for decades, signalling lunch and the start and end of shifts. The mill whistle had not been heard in Canton since May, but as the two teams lined up for the opening kickoff, a sound familiar to all who grew up in Canton echoed once again.

“It stopped me dead in my tracks,” Pisgah head football coach Brent Chappell told WRAL-TV.

Three closing thoughts:

  1. No score surprised me more Friday night than North Henderson’s 31-12 win over Hendersonville. The Knights are coming off a 3-7 season, but built a 17-6 halftime lead, scored first in the second half and kept the Bearcats in check. It gets no easier this week for Hendersonville, which will face a West Henderson squad that dominated Newton-Conover, 54-22.
  2. Actually, Robbinsville’s 40-6 thumping of East Surry may have been equally shocking. The preseason buzz on this game had been that the Knights might have the upper edge, with East Surry hit hard by graduation, but few expected Robbinsville to turn the game into a blowout. Cuttler Adams scored four touchdowns for a Black Knights team that may well be the team to beat at present in the 1A West bracket.
  3. Gotta love the resolve that Polk County’s boys soccer team showed in the 3-3 draw at East Henderson. The Wolverines gave up two goals in the first half in just over a minute, but failed to let that deficit affect their resolve. Owen Highsmith and Thomas Varnadore brought Polk back with goals, and then Will Garrison netted a long free kick in the second half after East had taken a 3-2 lead. The Wolverines might well have found the back of the net again, but were hampered by cramps for much of the second half.