Mount Airy prepares to defend its home field for the first time in the 1AA state playoffs against Polk County Friday.
As the West Region’s top seed, the Granite Bears are coming off their first bye week since September. Coach Kelly Holder’s squad will host the 8-seed Polk County Wolverines, who made it to the second round by defeating 9-seed North Rowan.
The Wolverines (8-4) are a difficult team to judge based on schedule alone. Each team that Polk County defeated in the regular season finished with a sub .500 record. North Rowan, the team Polk County defeated in the first round, did boast an 8-3 record entering the playoffs.
On the other end of the spectrum, each of Polk County’s losses were to team’s that made the playoffs. The Wolverines’ losses came from the following teams: Mitchell (10-1, 1A), Mountain Heritage (11-0, 2A), East Rutherford (7-5, 2A), and Pisgah (7-5, 2AA).
The 11-0 Bears have vanquished all opponents who entered their stadium. Mount Airy outscored opponents 332-57 en route to a 7-0 home record.
Mount Airy strength in all three phases has been the reason for their undefeated season. Defensively, the Bears have only allowed 99 points in 11 games. The Bears shut out opponents three times this season and only allowed 20 points in a game twice.
Polk County gives up an average of 20.3 points. Despite two shutouts, the Wolverines allowed 20 or more points six times this season, including 49 in the loss to Pisgah.
Mount Airy leads Polk County in tackles per game by a margin of 72.3 to 67.8. The Wolverines hold a considerable advantage in sacks with 23 on the season to the Bears’ 10. Polk also doubles the Bears in fumbles recovered on defense with 10.
The Wolverines are a run-first offense, edging out the Bears in yards rushing per game. Of the Polk County 337.4 total YPG, 256 come on the ground. Mount Airy’s offense per contest is 412.2 yards with 255.4 YPG rushing.
Junior Elijah Sutton leads Wolverines in rushing and points per game. Sutton’s 1,230 rushing yards ranks him third in Western Highlands 1A/2A Conference.
Mount Airy’s Johnathon Smith falls just behind Sutton with 1074 yards rushing and did so in one less game. However, Smith accounted for more total points (132) than Sutton (98) this season. This is due to Smith recording 22 touchdowns rushing to Sutton’s 12.
In terms of passing, the edge goes to the Bears. Quarterback Ian Holder led the Northwest 1A Conference with 1,526 passing yards and has a QBR of 143.1. Holder contributes most of Mount Airy’s 156.8 YPG passing.
Polk County’s total offense only consists of 81.4 YPG passing. The Wolverines primary QB is senior Dillon Overholt, who throws for 45.3 YPG. Junior Avery Edwards has fewer attempts but has played in all 12 of the Wolverines’ games. Edwards accounts for 30.9 YPG passing.
Bears wide receiver Donavon Greene is the NW1A leader in YPG receiving with 78.3, just 3.1 yards fewer than the Wolverines’ total YPG passing.
Mount Airy’s secret weapon is kicker Robert Brown. Brown in second in the Northwest Conference in total points (97), trailing only teammate Smith (132).
Brown’s season long field goal is 46 yards. The senior has made 64 of 65 PAT’s this season, including his last 58 attempts.
Kickoff for the NCHSAA 1AA Second Round match-up between Mount Airy and visiting Polk County is scheduled for Friday, November 17 @ 7:30pm with the winner advancing to the Elite 8.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith