Polk County had a spectator’s view of the 2013 2A boys soccer playoffs, a 6-16 record leaving the Wolverines at home once the postseason began.
Head coach Lennox Charles would like a a much closer perspective for the 2014 playoffs – and thinks such a view is entirely possible.
“I’m optimistic about what this group is capable of doing,” Charles said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get back into the playoffs. Hopefully, we can stay together and get it done.”
Polk County takes the first step on that journey on Wednesday night, traveling to Shelby for its season opener and a match that will give the Wolverines an early sense of how good they could be, just as a jamboree last week with Ashbrook and Ashe County did.
“That gave us a little more insight into the speed we need to play,” Charles said. “(Shelby) will be a really good test of where we are.”
The Wolverines tackle that test with experience throughout the starting eleven, though how the Polk lineup is configured could hinge on a change in strategy that Charles is considering.
“We’re experimenting with three defenders,” Charles said. “We’ve always played with four, but we’re going to try three and see which one does better after a few games based on our personnel.
“The biggest thing for us is that we’ve had people in and out of practice through injuries and vacation. We haven’t quite had everybody here at the same time, but we’re finally close to doing that.”
Garrett Weicker and Brad Blackwell return for Polk’s defense, and senior Alex Miller could shift between midfield and defense based on the strategic approach. But there’s plenty of experience in midfield with returnees Isaac Palmer, Hunter Hilbig, Bradley Osborn and Jeremy Allsbrook. Senior Anthony Marino, who played football last season, has returned to soccer and could contribute at both midfield and defensively, Charles said. Foreign exchange student Ben Deffner is also expected to see time at midfield.
David Sanchez and Wil Rimer will provide scoring punch up front.
Goal is expected to be manned by either returnee Rudy Macias or newcomer Tyler Campbell, a senior. Larry Dyer could also see time in goal, but is expected to play largely in the Wolverine back line.
“We expect our returning goalkeeper to be much better this year, but our newcomer has come out and done pretty well,” Charles said.
The Western Highlands Conference will again prove a challenge for the Wolverines, with Hendersonville, Owen and perhaps Mountain Heritage battling for the top three spots.
“If we can get six wins in conference play again, if we play well enough to get six wins, maybe we get two non-conference wins, and that will give us something close to .500 and a shot at the playoffs,” Charles said.
“I think we can be solid all the way around. We need to be good as a team because we have lots of good, solid players, but so far, we haven’t had anyone step up and be a level or two above everyone else. What will make us successful is whether we can be a good team.”
Isaias Akers *
Tyler Campbell *
Wilson Edwards *
* Dual roster players