Polk Middle head football coach Ethan Edwards talks with Dallas Littlejohn during Thursday's loss to Waynesville Middle

I’ve always been a numbers kind of guy.

My maternal grandmother was a much-loved high school math teacher, and she instilled in me from a young age a deep love of the subject. I was probably the only kid to check out a book on mixing sports and math in the library in my hometown. I’ve worked full-time at an analytics company since 2016.

Clearly, I like numbers.

Three weeks into the 2023-24 athletic season and there are already some interesting numbers relating to Polk County athletics. Let’s dive into a few.

11: By Thursday evening, Polk County’s volleyball team will have played its 11th game of the season, reaching the halfway point of its regular-season schedule. Those first 11 matches will be played in a four-week span, with the final 11 occurring over a five-week period.

The schedule’s first half ends with match 11 at home against West Henderson. Polk defeated the Falcons at home last season, and the rematch should be compelling. West Henderson currently owns a 5-5 record, but three of those losses came in a season-opening tournament in North Myrtle Beach against a field full of solid programs.

The first three weeks of the season have gone almost perfectly for Polk County – the Wolverines have dropped just one set in eight matches, that a 29-27 set at Asheville Christian. The week ahead will bring tough back-to-back games against Crest and West Henderson, and next week will include matches with Chase and Brevard, both currently undefeated ahead of their first matchup this Thursday.

The initial version of the MaxPreps Adjusted Rankings are also expected to be released in the next few days. Those are the ratings that determine playoff seedings, and Polk County will get a first look at how it stacks up against the top programs in 1A West.

94: Total yardage accumulated by Polk County in Friday’s 48-6 loss at West Henderson.

Polk County may well not see a defense as good as West Henderson’s the remainder of the season. The Falcons’ front seven is talented and well-disciplined, as they’ve shown in all three games this season, and that unit came through with key plays in two early possessions that helped spur the Falcons’ big first half.

Already up 10-0, West Henderson looked to be driving for another score when Nolan Simpson intercepted a pass at the Polk 8 and returned the theft to the Falcon 38. The Wolverines were looking at a short field with a chance to score, reduce the 10-0 margin to a single possession and stop the momentum that West had already built.

But the Falcons forced three straight incomplete Polk passes, also inducing an intentional grounding penalty. The Wolverines wound up facing fourth-and-29 at the 43, opting for a punt that was returned 67 yards to set up a Falcon touchdown.

Down 17-0, the Wolverines forced another turnover as Antonio Simpson induced a fumble recovered by Jadyn Virgil at midfield. But, again, West’s defense helped deliver three straight incomplete passes, deflecting the second- and third-down attempts at the line of scrimmage. Polk eventually punted, and West drove 82 yards in three plays to take a 24-0 advantage with 1:08 left in the first quarter.

Not to say that either possession would have changed the game’s outcome. But the Falcon defensive pressure made certain that the Wolverines had no chance to find out.

Good luck to offensive coordinators in the Mountain 7 Conference this season, scheming to find some means to move the ball against the Falcons.

Polk County’s Sebastian Azar flicks a header behind him as he also battles pressure from a Madison defender during a recent match between the two teams

19: The number of years since Polk County last began a boys soccer season without a loss in its first five matches (I think).

Have the Wolverines played the toughest schedule in the area thus far? Likely not. But the 3-0-2 start is still notable for a program that totalled just seven wins in the past two seasons.

Polk could match last season’s win total by defeating a winless North Henderson team on Tuesday. The Wolverines then have a Sept. 11 date looming at Patton, which has raced to a 7-0 start by outscoring its opponents 33-3.

Patton, Brevard and possibly Hendersonville are sitting with Polk County as the teams to watch this season in the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference. Brevard has lost only to Asheville and Enka, and senior Noah Backes has scored 14 goals in six games.

If the Wolverines are able to continue to develop offensively, then Polk might yet be a factor in the conference race. Back-to-back games against Patton and Hendersonville next week will certainly offer more insight into that.

3: Number of volleyball teams in the Blue Ridge Conference West Division that are undefeated after two matches.

Why is that notable? Because the early games of the middle school season are usually crossover matches, and historically the BRC East has been the stronger division.

But defending champion Macon upended Polk Middle and Hendersonville, Canton topped Rugby and Apple Valley and Bethel knocked off Hendersonville and Flat Rock, leaving Brevard as the only undefeated team in the East.

Teams move into division play beginning this week, with Polk set to host Apple Valley on Tuesday before journeying to Hendersonville on Wednesday. The Wolverines are off to a 3-1 start and are getting better with every match – it should be an interesting division schedule ahead.

6,000: Number of stories on PolkSports.com since its launch. That total includes this one, which is that 6,000th article.

The 6,000 stories are built on more than 2.1 million words, though track and field results have certainly added to the word count. Lot of words in those results.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a few of those words along the way.