BENTON – Derrick Davis doesn’t like putting unnecessary pressure on any of his football players and he normally doesn’t single out anyone as a make or break player for his Polk County Wildcats, but Zach Miller is an exception to those rules.
Polk County has come a long way in the 14 years that Davis has been its head coach. What was in the early days a homecoming team for most of their opponents, the Wildcats have changed that philosophy in recent years.
As a case in point, Polk County hasn’t lost a district football game in the past four years.
The Wildcats are picked this year to be the team to beat and one of the main reasons is the presence of Miller, a tough-as-nails senior whose a tad short of 6-2 and who weighs a sturdy 235 pounds.
Miller was the man for Polk County as he averaged more than nine yards per carry in accumulating 1,930 rushing yards while scoring 22 touchdowns. He’s not just a single dimension offensive player as he also caught nine passes for an additional 122 yards and yet another TD.
His best game a year ago came against Sequoyah where he gained 411 yards rushing and scored six touchdowns.
He’s a linebacker on defense and was the MVP for that group last year while leading the team in tackles.
He gets more than his share of attention on the field, no matter where he’s playing.
And now as he prepares for his final season as a high school star, he’ll also be the Polk County punter.
“I love running the football, but I really love to hit. And now, I’m stuck with the job of punter after the coaches saw what I could do just fooling around one afternoon,” the 17-year-old son of Marlena and Gary Miller expressed before a recent practice.
“We’re all excited about the upcoming season as we’re all older and more mature. We all want it,” he continued.
While Miller was the main weapon on Polk County’s offense a year ago, that’s not all that he can do.
“I can also block as I have a pretty good feel for the game. My offensive line is the key for my success because if they don’t block, I won’t go anywhere,” he said matter of factly.
Miller has drawn a lot of attention from college scouts, including those at UTC, MTSU, Appalachian State, Furman and Kentucky.
“I’ll just wait and see what those folks have to offer before I make a decision, but I want to be a business manager for someone in the future,” he concluded.
While Miller has received the most attention for his accomplishments on the football field, he is also a pretty good wrestler. Because Polk doesn’t have a wrestling team, he was able to be part of Walker Valley’s team last year where he finished fifth in the state at 220 pounds, compiling an impressive record of 48-9 along the way.
Coach Davis is just happy to have a player like Miller. Athletes like him don’t just show up every other week,
“I can’t say enough about him. Not only is he a good football player, but the type of kid he is. He’s an outstanding young man and the type player you dream about. I wish I had about 20 more just like him,” Davis joked without cracking a smile.
“He’s been starting since he was a freshman and I’ve never had the first problem out of him. He’s real active in FCA and he’s very involved in his youth group at church. He’s the type of kid you wish your daughter would bring home one weekend from college.
“Zach’s a two-way starter, but I’d love to see what he could do if he just concentrated on one position. No doubt, offense is important and the productivity was there. A lot of our opponents knew he was getting the ball and they keyed on him, but he definitely carried us offensively,” Davis continued.
“We’ve had some outstanding football players in years past, but he’s at the top of the list. He’s one of the best I’ve ever coached
“We have about 62 kids out and 15 of those are seniors. We’re really expecting a lot from them and we feel like we’ll be in the mix among District 5-AA. I know that we had better be ready to play because anybody can get beat on any given Friday night.
“Zach’s time here has just gone by too fast. We knew he’d be special when he was a freshman. He’s one that we depend on a whole lot.
“I hope we can find a way to give him a break at some point this fall, but somebody will be getting a great player next year. He needs to have a good year, but he’s working to get better. And he’s deceptively fast to be as big as he is. But he’s been a real pleasure to have around in recent years,” Davis concluded.
The Wildcats open their 2013 season on Friday, August 23 when neighboring Bradley comes to Benton.
McMinn Central, Walker Valley, Notre Dame and Loudon are other teams Polk will face at home while road games include Chattanooga Central, East Ridge, Sequoyah, Sweetwater and South Pittsburg.
Coach Davis could lose a little sleep along the way, but as long as he has a player like Zach Miller roaming his sideline, everything should turn out just fine.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)