’Cats-Cougars to renew old rivalry

By RICHARD ROBERTS Sports Editor
Posted 8/17/17

BENTON — Head coach Derrick Davis and the Polk County Wildcats could not have picked a more exciting way to kick off the 2017 football season.

After a 12-year hiatus, the Wildcats will make the …

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’Cats-Cougars to renew old rivalry

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BENTON — Head coach Derrick Davis and the Polk County Wildcats could not have picked a more exciting way to kick off the 2017 football season.

After a 12-year hiatus, the Wildcats will make the short trip east to Copper Hill Friday night where the intracounty rival Copper Basin Cougars will be waiting.

No doubt nerves will be a factor, but Davis is hoping recent openers against larger schools will help ease tensions and allow Polk to get on with the business of picking up win No. 1.

“No. 1 — I know all coaches, we’re happy the season is here. You’ve pretty much been at the lifting since the first of June. All the practices and dress rehearsals are out of the way and we’re happy we are in game week. Plus, it’s a team we haven’t played since 2004. That’s a great way to kick off the season, with an in-county rivalry,” said Davis.

“I don’t think they are nervous. I think it’s a good thing. It kind of gives the guys something to look forward to through all the hot practices. You can look toward opening up with a county rivalry. We’ve opened with different people over the years. When we opened with Bradley, it was very similar. The pressure wasn’t so much on us. It was a much bigger school. If anything, on paper we are probably supposed to win this game because we are a little bit bigger school. I don’t think there is any pressure at all on our end. Its just more excitement about starting the season.”

The Wildcats head into the opener coming off a 7-7 tie against Loudon in last week’s jamboree, where Polk was forced to come back after falling behind early to the Redskins. The ’Cats also overcame a fumble at the goal line during the single-quarter exhibition.

“We had two plays we could show on film that showed what happens when you don’t take the correct gap, and another was a missed blocked that would have let us walk into the end zone — as opposed to fumbling on the 1-foot line. It’s good it happened in the jamboree and we could use it as a teaching tool. It’s little things that can turn into big things. It turned into a turnover and it turned into a 70-yard touchdown. We got some things out of it,” Davis said of the teaching opportunity. “The main thing was, we didn’t get anyone hurt. It was good to send plays in and kind of get a feel of game situations. We got through it and from here on out, they all go in the record books.”

He also was impressed with the way the group of seasoned veterans kept themselves together and continued to play football when it would have been easy to call it a night and let the clock run. He was also quick to point out mistakes like the ones made last week could now translate into losses that count. But, he’s hopeful lessons have been learned.

“There have been times when some bad things happened and we’d get some adversity and we would hang our heads. But, we just took it right back down the field and were able to score and tie it up,” he said. “My big concern is doing what we are supposed to do and taking care of what we need to take care of. Just do your job. If everybody does their job we are going to have a chance. Whether it’s back-side blocking, carrying out fakes or staying home looking for cutbacks and reverses. If we do all those things we will probably be in pretty good shape. But, you can throw everything out the window when you are in a rivalry game, especially Week 1. We’ve got to do our job every play. We’ve got a little more depth this year and we’re able to play a few more kids. If somebody is not doing their job we have somebody who can step in, and we can see what they can do.”

Davis admitted he and his staff don’t know a great deal about Copper Basin specifically. For that reason, the Wildcats must be prepared for whatever the Cougars decide to throw at them which he says is a wide variety of options.

“We don’t know a lot. We traded a scrimmage film. They are a spread team, but we’ve got to be ready for everything. They ran a lot of different stuff last year, so who knows? We’ve got an idea about what they might do, but everybody has things that they save or come out and get into something different. We’ve seen a lot of different things over our scrimmages from different teams so we’ve just got to adjust and play our brand of football,” he said.

The coach also kept an emphasis on turnovers and the importance of creating takeaways and not giving the football up unnecessarily. He feels if the Wildcats take care of business in the turnover department and keep their heads when something goes wrong, they have a chance to return to Benton with a victory.

“We’re definitely ready to play as far as what it takes. Turnovers will be very important and we are going to have to play good defense and give the ball to our offense in good field position, and not let them drive it all the way down and keep us backed up. We’ve got to be pretty good in special teams. We haven’t seen those live. We’ve lined up in [special teams formations] in practice and scrimmage, but this is going to be live and it will be big,” Davis acknowledged.

“We’ve got to keep the turnover ratio on our side. That will be huge. We’ve got to do our jobs. Don’t do anything to help anybody out, just do your job first. We need 11 on offense with everybody blocking and carrying out their fakes. It’s going to start with the turnovers. We’ve got to force some and we’ve got to protect the football. A punt is not bad, we just can’t turn it over to them. We’ve got to hold onto the ball.”

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