Wildcats looking for playoff berth

By RICHARD ROBERTS
Posted 10/12/17

With three games left to play and the last home game of the season coming up Friday night, the Polk County Wildcats are in pretty close to a do-or-die situation when it comes to the postseason.The …

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Wildcats looking for playoff berth

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With three games left to play and the last home game of the season coming up Friday night, the Polk County Wildcats are in pretty close to a do-or-die situation when it comes to the postseason.

The Wildcats are on the verge of reaching the postseason which has eluded the team the past three years. A victory over Bledsoe County will ensure Polk breaks that dubious streak and plays at least one extra game this season.

“We need this win because the way our region has played out so far, a win puts us in third place with a chance going into Marion County. The winner there will host. A win here definitely puts us in and definitely puts us in third. A loss and it will depend on what happens with the other teams,” said Wildcats coach Derrick Davis. “There is a possibility we could not make it into the playoffs. There would be a chance there could be a three-way tie. And anytime there is a three-way tie somebody's not going to make it, and that could be us.”

“If you can't get excited about this, then I don't know what will do it. We haven't been to the playoffs since 2013. Here's our chance. Once you get to the playoffs everybody starts over. Add onto that the fact it is Senior Night and there isn't any reason we shouldn't be ready to play.”

The Warriors come to the Larry G. Davis Football Complex with a 3-4 record (0-2 Region 5-2A) looking to get that first region win and put the Wildcats' (3-4, 1-1)  postseason into the hands of fate.

“They are very similar to us. They've won a couple of games and this is a winnable game, but you'd like to think every one of them is a winnable game. They are playing better,” said Davis.

Davis' big concern with the Warriors is the margin of victory against common opponents. Bledsoe defeated McMinn Central 35-5 and lost to Whitwell 22-3.

“They definitely played better against common opponents, but you can't compare scores,” said Davis.

The Wildcats looked good, according to the coach, for the first 30 minutes last week in building a 14-0 lead, but let Sweetwater score just before halftime.

“We didn't finish Friday night. We've got to be able to finish. Played a pretty dang good first half. Once again it was a handful of plays that did us in. We were in the game with a great shot at winning. If we're in that situation Friday, we're going to have to finish.”

Another element facing the Wildcats is one they don't see much of over the course of a season, and that is a superb kicking game from the opposition. The Warriors can strike from long distance with a field goal and can pin opponents back with their punting game.

“I've seen their punter hit one in the air 50 yards before it rolled. He's kicked the ball in the end zone every single time on kickoffs. If it's a tight game, their kicker could make the difference,” he said. “He could be the key to a win for them. He's that good. We're not a field goal team, most teams are not. But, he can score points from way out. That's a concern.”

Over the course of the season, the Wildcats have fallen victim to their own inability to make a stop at crucial times and have given up the big play more than once. Davis said he feels some of those problems were fixed to a degree against Sweetwater.

“We played harder. We gang tackled better, we tackled better. But, we're still seeing mistakes you will see over the course of the year that hurt us. But, overall we played better. We came out ready to play. That was evident by getting up 14-0. We just still had that handful of plays that was the difference Friday night,” said Davis.

“We're still at times not blocking the point of attack and we had a couple of penalties that were drive killers. Or offense is not built for overcoming penalties like that, so that was a big disappointment,” said the coach.

Davis once again feels the key to a win this week is the motivation to reach the playoffs for the first time in three years. To be sure, the Wildcats' coach is hoping the motivation is there because it is tough anymore to get a solid read on what is on the minds of his roster. Added to the mix is the fact Polk County Schools are on fall break and the team hasn't been around as much as usual throws another variable into the equation.

“If these guys want to play an extra game, that should be their motivation. I used to be good at reading these guys, but I don't know any more, kind of what they are thinking. There is also a concern about us being on fall break. I don't see them because they're not at school. I do not like playing games on Friday when they have not been in school,” he said.

“But, a chance to be third in the region and knowing you are in the playoffs again with momentum going into the last two games should have you fired up.”

Davis explained if the Wildcats win Friday and come through with an upset at Marion County, not only would Polk be in the playoffs but the 'Cats would host a first-round game.

“We wouldn't have to get on a school bus. We wouldn't have to travel three or four hours. There is a lot to play for,” he said. “Hopefully the seniors will be ready to play. This is their last home game barring us hosting a playoff game. That ought to be motivation.”

With the final regular season home game coming up, Davis said he hopes the Wildcats fans will again show the support they have all season.

“We've traveled the last two weeks. It is our last home game. We have 10 seniors and nine of them have played four years for us. I hope the crowd will come out and support these guys, all of them, especially the seniors, for the four years they have put in and what the have been able to contribute to this program,” he said.

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