BENTON — With three games left in the regular season, the Polk County Wildcats are in a situation they haven’t been in for quite some time. The last few years have been a struggle for the …
BENTON — With three games left in the regular season, the Polk County Wildcats are in a situation they haven’t been in for quite some time.
The last few years have been a struggle for the Wildcats, but so far in 2018 the team has put together a pretty solid season and looks to take even bigger steps with two region 2-2A games remaining on the schedule.
The first of the final two region battles will take place Friday night, when the Wildcats take to the road to face the Bledsoe County Warriors. A win would (1) Guarantee a winning season — the first in five years. (2) Set Polk up to host its first playoff game in that same five-year span. And (3) add another layer to the foundation for continued success of Polk County football.
“I actually told the guys Monday this is the biggest game of their career. We haven’t hosted a playoff game since 2013, when we hosted the first two rounds. This gives them a chance to go into the last game to accomplish that goal. This game could give us a winning record, no matter what else. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened since 2013,” said Wildcats coach Derrick Davis.
The only visible negative facing the Wildcats during preparation for Friday’s 8 p.m. EDT battle with the Warriors is the relative fall break slowdown, and the comparatively long bus ride to Pikeville.
Neither obstacle should be a major distraction, in light of the fact the game could be a make-or-break deal as far as earning a home playoff game for the Wildcats.
Davis said the losing record the Warriors hold is deceptive since new names have appeared on the rosters since the opening game. On the positive side, the Wildcats seem to be ready and anxious to take up the challenge of a fall break, big-time game.
"We’ve got a lot of things stacked against us. Fall break, the long trip over to Bledsoe County, and they are definitely not a 1-6 team,” despite their overall record, he said. “We’ve got some things we’ve got to battle as far clutter. It is the biggest game in a while. We can’t start out sluggish like we did at Sweetwater, that’s for sure. Everybody was here yesterday and they seem ready to go. With the seniors we have, I think they understand the importance of this game.”
When the Wildcats did get on track after falling behind early last week, the coaching staff opened the playbook to a couple of pages that have been gathering dust for a few years. The result was a pair of touchdown passes of 39 and 68 yards from quarterback Nate Waters to receiver Kyle Dunn that helped the 'Cats pull away to a 49-20 win.
“They weren’t touchdown passes like we were throwing it inside the 10-yard line. Nate (Waters) threw two really good passes. They were set up by really good protection by our offensive line. That is something that was very nice to see, to be able to throw the ball like that. That can help us down the road if we can continue to execute some of those passes. We are hoping to build on it,” Davis acknowledged.
“In practice sometimes we haven’t been able to be very successful for whatever reason. Many times these guys can’t catch very well. Kyle is pretty reliable. There will be times when we have to throw the ball. Normally we won’t one able to go as far as we did last Friday with less than a minute left. But, we decided to take a chance, and it paid off.”
The coach also admitted there won’t be an excess of new schemes or plays added to the Wildcats’ look from here on out. From team-to-team, there will be a different look here and there with a new play or two thrown in but, overall, Polk County football will remain Polk County football. Every player on the field will be excited to play as if it is the biggest game of the year with no letdowns on either side of the ball.
“This late in the year I don’t know if we are going to be able to go out there and teach guys to play hard. That falls on them. The big key this week is playing extremely hard. When we do that we’re not too bad. When we have an individual here or there take a play off or if you have two or three do that, we’re not very good. We’re going to roll a few guys in that haven’t played as much as far as a lot of minutes. They may start on defense, but we may play them on offense some. We’re just looking for guys who will play very hard for four quarters,” said the Wildcats coach.
“We will add a few wrinkles from here on out, but probably no big scheme changes. Everybody adds things here and there, this late. Maybe a different set or a different-type blitz," Davis said. " But, we won’t have any major changes. These next three games need to be treated as playoff games. Hopefully, they realize there is a big difference in riding three hours on a bus and staying here at home the first round. We can’t accomplish that unless we’re able to find a way to beat Bledsoe."
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