Wolverine’s Ollis named Western NC Coach of the Year

Published 10:53 pm Monday, December 30, 2013

PCHS defenders contain the Owen Warhorses’ running back, Jager Gardner, to win the conference title. (photo by Mark Schmerling)

PCHS defenders contain the Owen Warhorses’ running back, Jager Gardner, to win the conference title. (photo by Mark Schmerling)

Who would have guessed that Polk County High School’s football team would roar back from losing its first three games of the 2013 season (against very difficult opposition), to win the next nine contests, including every game against its Western Highlands Conference opponents for the WHC title?

Head coach Bruce Ollis didn’t simply guess that; Ollis, who had been named WHC football Coach of the Year and who was most recently named Western North Carolina Football Coach of the Year, knew it, and he told his players that they’d win all those games.

Ollis and six of his players were named to the All WNC team by the Asheville Citizen-Times. Ollis is proud to be named WNC Coach of the Year but is generous with sharing credit for Polk’s success.

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“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said.

However, he said it was because of his players, two of whom, Reece Schlabach and Chase McMurray, were named to the All WNC First Team.

In addition Anthony Carson and Zane Cappozzi were named to the All WNC second team, while fellow Wolverines Jordan Smith and Tyrone Miller received honorable mention.

“This speaks very highly of our program, and the type of players we have,” Ollis offered.

While Schlabach was named as defensive back for his season total of 70 tackles (three for losses); he also turned in a highly impressive offensive campaign as quarterback, passing for 1,638 yards and 12 touchdowns. Further, he ran for 1,102 yards and 23 TDs, in addition to his accomplishments in both kicking and receiving punts. He’s previously been named WHC Offensive Player of the year.

McMurray proved he was the Wolverines’ strongest player, with 59 tackles, including 15 for loss of yards, plus two sacks and a fumble recovery. McMurray, earlier named as WHC Defensive Player of the Year, was named as one of the All WNC Linemen of the Year.

Carson was named as a wide receiver on the All WNC second team. During this past season, he caught 49 passes for 857 yards and six TDs. On the other side of the ball, Carson made 35 tackles, including two for loss of yardage.

Joining Carson on the second team, as an offensive lineman, is Cappozzi, who helped open many of the holes through which his ball-carrying teammates sprinted. Cappozzi, who seemed always near the ball on defense, made 11 tackles, five for losses.

Smith and Miller received honorable mention based on their fine 2013 seasons.

Smith rushed for 749 yards and 10 touchdowns, and also caught 22 passes for 401 yards and three TDs. Miller gained 81 yards via his pass-receiving, but also led the Wolverines with 95 tackles, eight for loss of yards. Smith made 56 tackles, with 11 of those resulting in losses.

“I look at this as a staff award,” Ollis continued. “We get along great, work hard together, and reap the benefit of that.”

He also mentioned that both the coaches and the players “kept their noses to the grindstone. We kept that focus.”

Polk’s first of nine consecutive wins was the 21-15 triumph over long-time rival Landrum, on the road.

“That was the first time in the 2013 season that our defense rose up and made the play to save the game,” Ollis noted.

Much of the Wolverines’ success can be credited to the coaching staff as a whole.

“It takes diligent, hardworking people,” said Ollis. “We have that. They’re not only good coaches, they’re good people, and good teachers.” They watch game films, he said, and “get to know what will happen before it does.”

This past season’s assistant coaches included Jamie Thompson, David Powell, Ethan Edwards, Todd Philpott, Josh Hill, Phillip Miller, Pat McCool, Max Crawford, and volunteer assistant coach John Rochford, who brought with him his own experience as a college and NFL player.

Many times during the season, noted Ollis, one of his assistants would spot a weakness on the opposing team, resulting in a big play for the Wolverines.

“It’s a group effort,” Ollis continued. “We’re not afraid to share the effort . . . There’s a lot of gratification in that.”

Ollis said that on Sundays, following a game, he met with coaches to discuss what their players did, and then discussed the upcoming opponent. Jamie Thompson often arrived there even before Ollis.

Coming back from 0-3 early in season to win conference title and nine games in a row was a group effort, Ollis noted.

“Everybody took stock in that. Some of our players had been there (as winners) before.”

He also credited having players recover from injuries before the Landrum game.

“When you have your best players on the field all the time, it give you the best chance to win,” he said.

“There’s no jealousy on our team,” stressed Ollis. “Each player revels in the success. We’re all pulling in the same direction. That gives me a lot of satisfaction. We have quality people in our football program. We recruit people into the program. Character is at the top of the list (of qualities sought).”