BENTON — For the second week in a row, the Polk County Wildcats will be on the road to Chattanooga, or more precisely East Ridge. Polk’s last foray to the Scenic City proved fruitful, as the Wildcats rolled back up Highway 58 with a win over Chattanooga Central.
After the victory over the Purple Pounders, the ’Cats enjoyed a much-needed week off. Although it was only the second week of the season, there were some nicks, lumps and bumps needing some time to heal. The vacation also gave Polk running back AJ Pittaway the needed time to finish his recovery and rejoin the team after missing the first two games.
“The off week couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve missed AJ Pittaway the first two weeks. He is our starting inside linebacker and was starting at tailback, playing a lot. We get him back. He practiced this week and is ready to go. Matthew Hammons missed last week with an elbow injury, but we feel like he is going to play. We had a couple more nicked up. The off week was really good for us from that standpoint,” said Polk coach Derrick Davis.
“Once you start, you want to play every Friday. There have been a lot years where we had to wait a week and you wish you were playing. But, this week I was happy that we had an extra week just to heal up a bit. It worked out good for us. Of course if we get any more hurt, we’re not going to have a week to get over it. But, this one was a good one to have.”
This time around, Polk will be making the trip to East Ridge where the Pioneers recovered from an 0-2 start to win over the same Chattanooga Central team by a score of 16-0. The Wildcats rolled over the Pounders 35-15.
“They’re 1-2, the two games they lost they turned the ball over a lot. Notre Dame beat them and Walker Valley beat them, but they turned around last week and beat a team we beat (Chattanooga Central) 16-0. They’ve got some really good skill guys and show multiple formations on offense that can cause problems if we line up wrong. Their quarterback is always a threat to take off running if he don’t throw it. They’ve definitely improved and a lot of people are picking them to be the dark horse in their district,” said Davis.
“Once again, we have no ‘gimme,’ easy game. This is just the next one on our schedule. IF we play well, we have a good chance. If we don’t they are a team that has the capability of hurting you.”
Polk will head to the land of Lake Winnepesaukah with virtually the same game plan the ’Cats have used since Davis took over as head coach. He said there are no changes coming up in the basic scheme of playing hard-nosed, straight ahead football.
“Gosh, we haven’t changed anything in 14 years,” Davis said with a laugh. “We are not going to do a whole lot different. We always add a little to the offense, sometimes we use it, sometimes we don’t. We’ll make tweaks here and there and make certain checks on defense. But our base stuff pretty much never changes. We always add a few things or take a few things away and pare it down.”
The most glaring aspect of Polk County football that must change, according to Davis, is the one thing that could eventually come back to haunt the team in a serious way if not fixed — and fixed fast.
“One thing we are going to have to improve, and it’s my Achilles’ heel, is kickoffs. We have to improve our team and our coverage. I don’t know what the average starting position for the teams we have played is, but it has to be around the 40-yard line. I’m at a loss on what to do. We’ve tried different people, we are just going to have to get better. The field position has not been real good when we have to kick off,” he said.
Beginning Sept. 20, the Wildcats return to the friendly confines of the Larry G. Davis Football Complex and open District 5-AA play against arc-rival McMinn Central. But for now, Davis said the business at hand is coming away from Hamilton County with a 3-0 record.
“It’s the second week in a row we are going to Chattanooga. The good teams are able to play well on the road and we are hoping we can do that. Not looking ahead, but we when we get this one out of the way we start our district schedule and have two straight at home,” he said.
“But right now, it’s back to Chattanooga. We have to have another great effort down there. We had phases where we played really well against Chattanooga Central, but we need to improve every week,” the coach said.
“There is no reason for us to go down there and be flat, not ready to play. We’re starting about nine seniors on both sides of the ball. Once again, we are going to go as far as these seniors will take us. We do have the experience of being on the road with guys who start. We look to them to be able to go down there and take care of business.”