Wildcats looking to upgrade playoff seed
by RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
Oct 31, 2013 | 648 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE POLK County Wildcats will line up once more during the regular season Friday night against Loudon, in Benton.
Banner photo, LYNNAE ROBERTS
THE POLK County Wildcats will line up once more during the regular season Friday night against Loudon, in Benton. Banner photo, LYNNAE ROBERTS
BENTON — The District 5-AA champion Polk County Wildcats will get the postseason playoffs started a week early when they go up against the Loudon Redskins Friday inside the Larry G. Davis Football Complex in Benton.

The game itself is officially the final game of the regular season for the Wildcats, but it is also the final district game for both teams. The Redskins are a familiar foe for the Wildcats although the teams have not faced off in a number of years. Loudon has returned to District 5-AA and is in a position to deal Polk its first district loss.

“It’s good to be back at home. We’ve locked up the district championship, but this game will kind of set the tone for the playoffs. We know the next two games will be at home and we are only guaranteed two more,” Davis said. “This is really the playoffs, just a week early. We can better our seeding with a win that would help us stay and play here. We’ve got to take care of Round 1.”

Davis and his coaching staff are not only having to deal with setting the Wildcats straight after last week’s last-minute loss to South Pittsburg, off-the-field distractions come into play with Senior Night festivities in full swing.

“We lost a heartbreaker last week. We didn’t even watch the film — it was pretty evident what cost us and we went over those things and have worked hard to make corrections,” said the coach.

“It’s Senior Night and that is always an emotional time for our kids. But, we have taken care of business enough to have one more game after that.”

Loudon got off to a rocky start in 2013, but have since righted the ship with the return of starters lost to early season injuries.

“They were missing six or seven starters early in the year. They had a lot of injuries at once to a lot of their key players. Once they got those guys back, they beat East Ridge and they have really pretty much got things turned around,” Davis said. “What would we look like if we lost six or seven of our starters and didn’t have them in? That’s what happened to them early in the year, and once they got those guys back they really turned it on.”

There is no question Polk has the weaponry needed to pick up its eighth win of the season. But the Redskins are also now playing with a full arsenal and will not hesitate to pull out all the stops to ruin the Wildcats’ perfect district winning streak run of 20 consecutive victories.

“I would feel a little bit better if they were the Loudon team from the first of the year. But this is a very dangerous team. We haven’t had a lot of success against these guys, and I’m talking over a long period of time,” admitted the Polk coach. “We did beat them in 2006, then the last time we played them we were 11-0 and they put us out in the first round of the playoffs.”

Just because the Wildcats and Redskins have not played in a while does not mean there is no familiarity, particularly to the Polk fans who have watched Wildcats football through the years.

“It’s a familiar team, especially as far as the older people are concerned. They know all about the Loudon tradition. This is a totally different team that we are seeing now as opposed to earlier in the year, and a win over us may give them a shot at making the playoffs,” Davis pointed out. “If I were their coach I would be telling their seniors this may be the last game they ever play, and to play with pride.”

Davis pointed out another motivation for the Redskins is the chance to hand the Wildcats their first district loss of the season and their first district defeat in 21 games. “They’ve still got a lot to play for in this game,” he said.

Last week, uncharacteristic personal foul penalties, missed blocks and poor tackling allowed the Pirates to mount a last-minute drive that paid off with a game winning touchdown with just 20 seconds left. The Wildcats must find a quick fix for those problems in order to remain undefeated after the year’s final district game.

“We are going to have to play better in the special teams area, in particular punt and point-after blocking. We are going to have to be more mentally tough when it comes crunch time. We are going to have to be more mentally tough and smarter in certain situations,” Davis said.

“Against South Pitt if we get a first down we maybe could have run out the clock, but we got a personal foul. We recovered from that and we got an illegal procedure. We cannot help Loudon like we did South Pitt with 60 yards of penalties.

Remedies to the problems that led to a loss last week must be fixed and fixed quickly, according to Davis. A return to basic fundamentals will be a much-needed commodity against Loudon. Davis said brains will play as large a role as brawn and the Wildcats need to be astute, clever and quick-witted on the field.

“It’s Week 10 and we are still blocking the guys we are supposed to trap — those things are very frustrating. Things we should have corrected a long time ago. To sum it up we have to play smarter in crucial situations and as in every week, we have to protect the football,” the coach said.

“I thought we played hard last week, but if we had made a tackle here or there we might could have stopped them. But their guy juked us and kept the drive alive for them. Those are the things you can look back on and correct. If we can fix those mistakes it’s going to give us a lot better chance to win.”