Polk County must never run out of chicken salad.
Football coaches have different names to classify quarterbacks who run as well as they can throw.
And Bruce Ollis has seemed to produce an endless supply of what he likes to call a “chicken salad” player in 12 seasons with the Wolverines.
Senior Reece Schlabach is the latest in a long line and his impact goes beyond offense.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior was a Citizen-Times All-WNC and All-Western Highlands Conference defensive back/wide receiver in 2012.
Prior to this season, it was not even a given that Schlabach would play quarterback full time. But he has responded by passing for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions, while also rushing for a team-high 623 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Schlabach is making 6.9 tackles per game. Oh, and he also punts — Schlabach is averaging 30.2 yards a kick for Polk County (5-3, 3-0), which has won five straight games after its first 0-3 start in 11 years.
“I’ll be honest, I can’t tell you how pleased I am with Reece,” Ollis said.
“He’s gotten better every single game. I really feel like he’s gotten comfortable being our quarterback and understanding what he has to do. Now he’s out there making above-average plays and his statistics bear it out. I believe he’s playing as well as any quarterback in our conference.”
Schlabach has sent the majority of his passes to Anthony Carson (40 receptions for 711 yards and six touchdowns) and Jordan Smith (12 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns).
Smith is also the team’s second-leading rusher (361 yards, five touchdowns), followed by Donte Poston (284 yards, two touchdowns).
Other defensive standouts for Polk County include Tyrone Miller (54 tackles), Debois Miller (53) and Khiree Green (50).
“The three-game losing streak was tough, but everyone just regained their focus and it’s paid off,” Schlabach said.
“Our offensive line suddenly clicked and found a rhythm and that makes our backfield play better. Then, that sets up the passing game and makes everything a lot easier. I’m starting to get a little more of a feel for (quarterback), and there’s a lot less pressure now. I can relax a little more.”
Schlabach also plays baseball and basketball for the Wolverines, but hopes to play football in college.
He and Polk County travel to Avery County (3-4, 0-2) on Friday, which is their final game before a Nov. 1 date at Owen (6-1, 3-0).
“A lot of people are saying that Owen is our next big game,” Schlabach said.
“But we know that they are all big if we want to win a conference championship. We need to play our best Friday if we want to come out with a win.”
Olllis said he scheduled Asheville High, R-S Central and Shelby the first three weeks of the season for a reason.
“We’ve played stiff competition and that’s a benefit to us,” Ollis said.
“We didn’t schedule those teams to play and lose to them. I think we benefited from it and we’re very, very healthy right now which has a lot to do with our five-game success. There’s no doubt, I always felt like we could be a factor in the (WHC championship) race, even when we were 0-3.”