The good news for Polk County head coach Derrick Davis is he has one less day to worry about how his Wildcats are going to perform on the road this week.
The bad news is he must cram five days’ of worry into four since the ’Cats will kick off tonight at 7:30 against McMinn Central, in Englewood.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats have given Davis and his staff plenty to be concerned about as the early game time approaches. After pulling out a win last week, a particular area of consternation in the form of fundamental mistakes continues to plague the team.
“I actually felt a little fortunate to get the win the way things went. But, we battled back from 14-0 and that was positive. I don’t want to be just an average football team. We’re still making some mistakes we should not be making. Our ultimate goal is to win the district. Last Friday we did some things that will help us do that, but there are also some things that will keep us out of the playoffs if we continue to do them,” Davis said.
“Some of them are things we have talked about for weeks and weeks and weeks. It becomes frustrating.”
Practice attitude and energy are additional areas the Wildcat coach has been working to raise in the small time the team has had to work on this week’s game plan.
“This week’s practice hasn’t been great. It’s going to be a sickening feeling one night when those mistakes cost us. I’m a little disappointed in this week’s practice attitude and execution,” said the coach.
“We’re not going to go up there and roll that red helmet out and watch them raise the white flag. We are going to play the game and Central is a better team, way better than they have been the last few years. They would like nothing better than to beat Polk County. The problem is, I don’t know if our guys would like nothing better than to beat Central.”
The Polk coaches have attempted to hammer home the fact that Central appears to be a recharged team in 2012. The Chargers gave McMinn County all it wanted in the season opener and whipped Notre Dame 41-20 last week, as the Wildcats struggled against Chattanooga Central.
“They have maybe been down a bit, but we have sure told them McMinn Central is a better team than they have been. A lot of times I don’t know that they are listening. I don’t want to come in at the end of the game and say, “I told you so,” but we are going to have to crank it up Thursday night,” said Davis.
“I think the difference between us and them is that team is hungry for a win and I don’t know that our guys are hungry for a win. Things have come easy for some of them. The speeches we are giving and the things we are doing to try and get them ready, sometimes I wonder if it registers.
Davis lamented he has struggled to see any sense of a get-it-done-now attitude from the Wildcats. He said bad habits continue to afflict the team’s attitude and a cure must be found fast if Polk is to avoid a season-killing pandemic.
“I don’t know if a tough loss is the only thing that will get their attention. But, if we don’t improve on our practice habits and doing some of the little things that should be expected without being reminded, it could be a tough night Thursday night,” the coach lamented.
“They need to have a sense of urgency right now, right now — not with two minutes left in the game. They don’t need to panic with two minutes left in the game and wonder what they are going to do.
In a district comprised of only four teams, there can be no margin for error. One District 5-3A loss could mean the difference between moving on past Week 10 or putting the pads up for another year.
“We’ve got four district games. That’s it. If they think we can kind of mess one up, well, no we can’t. These games are important. You mess one or two up and you will be sitting at home the first round of the playoffs. I hope we are ready to play,” said Davis.
Playing on only five days’ rest shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not the Wildcats win or lose, according to Davis. The staff instituted a practice schedule adjustment in an attempt to keep as normal a schedule as possible.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s the same for both teams. The only thing we did was treat Monday as a regular practice day. We backed Monday and Tuesday up. We didn’t have a walk-through,” Davis explained.
Tonight’s clash will be the biggest glimpse as to whether or not Polk County can begin to have its first thought toward postseason play. If the Wildcats get hungry, a feast awaits just up Highway 411. If the ’Cats are not hungry, the short trip back south could seem more like a cross-country excursion.
“I think we are going to have to play even better than we did last week. I’ll say it again, Those guys are ready to beat Polk County. I hope our guys are ready to beat McMinn Central,” said the coach.
“I think it means something for Central right now to beat Polk County and to be honest, I’ve got questions as to whether it means something for us to beat them. Not for all of our kids, but for some of them. I’m a little disappointed in how collectively we have approached this game. We really don’t know what we are going to see Thursday.”