The stands at the Larry Davis Football Complex just kept filling and the cars just kept rolling in as the “Big Red Train” faithful came out to see what the team has in store for them this year.
Benton’s Wildcats didn’t disappoint, marching down the field for four scores and holding the Irish offense scoreless for around 2 1/2 hours of play.
Head coach Derrick Davis expressed caution to his players in the postgame talk, urging them to take the dominating performance with a grain of salt, because until that scoreboard lights up it’s still only practice.
“I’ve had teams that have looked terrible in preseason scrimmages and have gone on to win 10 games that season, and I’ve had teams that were really strong in scrimmages and had slow starts. We need to take this for what it is and continue to work hard and get better,” he expressed.
The big focus for Davis and his coaching staff this early in the season is injuries and finding the balance between working hard and keeping healthy.
“A constant worry for me this time of year is how hard to push the guys. Do we go out and scrimmage ourselves and risk someone getting hurt? We told them if they can’t come out here and play hard and get physical that we will get more intense during the week,” he explained.
But, overall he was pleased with the performance the Wildcats put on the field in their first team-vs.-team test.
Offensively, Polk County featured a number of misdirection run plays that were complemented by some quick play-action passing to move the ball methodically down the field.
On the defensive side of the ball the team landed some huge hits and came away with a few takeaways (one for a score), demonstrating speed in getting to the ball with purpose.
“Tonight we played hard and the physical aspects were there most of the time. We are going to try and practice smart. We as coaches want tempo during the week. We want them going hard. I want them ready to go and hungry on Friday night,” he said.
“All-in-all I don’t think we fumbled. We held onto the ball. We moved the ball well. Defensively, we didn’t give up any touchdowns.”
However, a constant worry in the back of Davis’ mind is always injuries, both for the sake of his players’ safety and for the devastating effect they can have on a small roster like Polk County.
“A few injuries here or there, especially on a team our size and with our depth, it can devastate you. We didn’t have anyone get hurt and that’s a huge positive,” Davis stated.
That split focus of keeping the team healthy while maintaining intensity and drive through the preseason will follow Davis a few more weeks as the team prepares for it’s season opener Aug. 17 as the Bradley Central Bears come to visit.
Before ‘Big Red’ squares off against the ‘Black-and-Gold’ they have a few more preseason scrimmages to take care of.
Tuesday, the team will have a closed practice with East Hamilton. Thursday, Polk County will travel to Loudon for a scrimmage and they wrap up preseason competition in Tellico on Friday, participating in a jamboree against Meigs County at 8:10 p.m.
There is a lot of work still to be done, and some decisions still to be made according to Davis, but the hard work and intensity that Polk County has become known for seems already alive on the field and in the stands.
“We told them that we shouldn’t have to coach effort. Our effort was there tonight, but these next two weeks are only going to get tougher. We need to make sure we keep an even keel and stay focused,” he said.