Wildcats face tough task against No. 10 Irish
by RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
Oct 10, 2013 | 635 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE POLK COUNTY WILDCATS will step out of district to host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Friday at the Larry G. Davis Football Complex in Benton. 
Banner photo, LYNNAE ROBERTS
THE POLK COUNTY WILDCATS will step out of district to host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Friday at the Larry G. Davis Football Complex in Benton. Banner photo, LYNNAE ROBERTS
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BENTON — The days of picking a cupcake to beat up on for homecoming are long gone — at least according to Polk County head coach Derrick Davis.

But, Davis has the proof to back up his theory.

The No. 7-ranked Wildcats have invited the No. 10-ranked Notre Dame fighting Irish to help celebrate Polk County’s 2013 homecoming inside the Larry G. Davis Football Complex.

“It’s homecoming. When it comes to homecoming, we are not going to pick a district game. Then we have two away games after that,” said Davis. “Our fans need to understand homecomings, anymore, are not just picking somebody you can beat. It comes down a lot of times to availability. It’s not like years ago where you pick somebody you are going to beat.”

Davis has been pleased with his team’s performance the last couple of weeks.

“The last two weeks I thought we played better, from the effort and intensity aspect. It’s shown with two wins. I think we started with Walker Valley and it kind of carried on last week,” Davis said. “We are definitely playing better in about every aspect, except our kickoff and return coverage. We are still struggling a little bit there. We are playing better, but there is still the big challenge of playing well the rest of the year.”

The Fighting Irish will be bringing a high quality brand of football to Benton. Although Notre Dame shows two marks in the loss column, both have been against quality opponents.

“Their two losses are to Knox Catholic and a nail-biter with Signal Mountain that could have gone either way. We want to enjoy the big win last week that put us in good shape as far as the district is concerned,” said the Wildcats coach. “You’d like to have a little bit of a break every now and then as far as who you are facing, but it doesn’t get any easier with Notre Dame. They are right up there with the best teams we’ve played.”

The Irish are not short on talent offensively. Notre Dame will bring another spread offensive style with it to Polk which generally means a lot of throwing. But, along with being proficient through the air, the Irish are also tough to deal with on the ground, which makes defensive scheming even more difficult.

“It’s hard for me (to scheme against the spread), I can tell you that. It’s really hard to scheme. If they were a one-dimensional throwing team it would be a little different, but they’re not,” Davis admitted. “They are not just your true spread, pass-it-around team. (Notre Dame running back) Banks and receiver Kevin Orr give them a serious dual threat.”

Since getting back on the winning track after a loss to East Ridge, the Wildcats picked up the pace and regained their identity as a straight-on, hard-nosed football team. Even so, Davis said it will take added effort to make Friday’s homecoming a successful one.

“They are very good defensively. I think two of their offense guys went on a visit to Ohio State. We may have had a couple of guys go visit Cleveland State,” Davis said through a chuckle. “We are going to have to bring even more intensity and effort and cut out mistakes like fumbles. We had terrible field position last week and we can’t get into a field position battle with those guys. They have so many weapons. They have a lot of speed and they play real sound, fundamental football.”

Against Sequoyah, the Wildcats opened with a 96-yard drive that chewed up more than eight minutes of the first quarter. Polk will have to control the ball again against the Fighting Irish and again control time of possession. Defensively, the Wildcats must contain the Notre Dame running game while guarding against an aerial assault.

“We have to try, and the key word is try, to keep the ball away from them. The problem is they are not just a spread team that throws every down. They’ve got a good running back that allows them to mix up their play calling so well. It puts a lot of pressure on us defensively,” said Davis.

“We are going to play very hard. I expect a big crowd, and I hope the fans are really into it and give us a boost.”