The defense may know what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean they can stop it.
Two Western Highlands Conference football teams ranked in the WLOS WNC Football Top 10 Poll that love to run the ball – and do it very well – square off on MY 40 this week in the “Thursday Night Lights” battle.
No. 6 Mitchell (7-1, 1-1) travels to No. 9 Polk County (6-2, 2-0) for a 7 pm kickoff in a game that will likely determine which squad gets a higher seed in the 1-A division of the upcoming playoffs.
Both are also still in the running for a league title in the overall 2-A/1-A WHC as well, along with Mountain Heritage (7-0, 2-0).
The winner of Thursday’s game will most likely be the offense that runs the ball more effectively and/or the defense that slow down the other’s ground game.
The Wolverines, enjoying the return of veteran coach Bruce Ollis, have pounded out 2,285 yards rushing this season, averaging 285 yards per game.
Mitchell is right behind as a ground-dominated offense, with 2,260 rushing yards (282 pg).
While Polk County gets much of its yardage from junior tailback Elijah Sutton (997 yards, nine touchdowns, 12.3 yards per carry) and quarterback Dillon Overholt (676 yards, 7 scores), the Mountaineers spread the pigskin around.
Four runners share the load – sophomore Noah Pitman (530 yards, 8 TDs), Ben Robinson (520 yards, 6 TDs), quarterback Ben Young (459 yards, 4 TDs) and Landon Miller (357 yards, 3 TDs).
But both can throw when needed – Young has passed for 1,067 yards and 12 scores, while Overholt has thrown for 542 yards and 8 TDs.
The Wolverines are coming off a 425-yard rushing effort last week in a 38-15 win over Avery County, just shy of the school record.
Overholt’s elusiveness is what concerns Mitchell coach Travise Pitman, who has built a powerhouse in Ledger. Pitman is 42-10 in his fourth season with the Mountaineers.
“He’s very versatile, dangerous in space,” said Pitman. “He is exceptional at running the option, and that’s hard to prepare for in a short week.
“They are just fine with getting four yards a carry, and we have to stop that from happening.”
Meanwhile, having several runners who can gain significant yards is an advantage for Mitchell.
“We’re lucky that we have that many kids that can run the ball, because teams can’t key on one player,” said Pitman.
If Polk County floods the box, Young can find open receivers – he has thrown for five TDs in a game twice in his last three starts.
Young is wrapping up a prolific career as one of Western North Carolina’s top quarterbacks. His 10,291 total yards of offense and 125 touchdowns responsibility (65 passing, 60 running) each rank second all-time.
Ollis is used to competing for a conference title, winning five from 2002-13 while posting a 110-42 mark with the Wolverines. After three years as a head coach in South Carolina, he returned and has brought his winning ways with him after Polk went through back-to-back 5-7 seasons the last two years.
“That’s like a four-headed monster they have on offense, and it keeps your defense honest,” said Ollis. “But you have to watch out for (Young) because he can throw the ball very well when they need him to.”
Quarterback Ben Young had 251 yards of total offense to lead the Mitchell High to a 25-7 win over Polk County in the "Thursday Night Lights" game on My 40.
Young completed 9-of-17 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 117 yards and a score for the Mountaineers (7-1, 2-1) to key the win in Western Highlands Conference play.
Mitchell, ranked sixth in the WLOS WNC Football Top 10 Poll, broke away from an early 7-7 tie by scoring 18 unanswered points.
The Wolverines (6-3, 2-1), ninth in the WLOS poll, got a 35-yard touchdown run from Elijah Sutton.
The final regular-season edition of "Thursday Night Lights" is set for Nov. 2 when Hendersonville visits county rival East Henderson.
Here's some highlights from the game below:
Also check out our plays of the game!