It wasn’t the full 80 minutes of solid execution that Polk County boys soccer coach Josh Trejo wants to see.
But Polk County’s 4-1 win Saturday over Highlands served as the latest indicator that the Wolverines may be hitting their stride ahead of one of their most important games of the season.
Polk scored three times in the final 21 minutes and survived a flurry of attempts from Highlands late in the half to secure the non-conference win in G.M. Tennant Stadium.
The Wolverines improved to 6-8-1 entering Monday’s Western Highlands Conference clash at Avery. The top 1A team in the league standings will earn an automatic berth into the upcoming state playoffs and possible first-round home game. Avery currently sits a game ahead of Polk County in the WHC race.
“In the second half, we were a little flat defensively, but after Salvador (Chavez) scored that third goal, things eased up a little bit. I saw some smiles,” Trejo said. ”
“It’s good to be on a positive note going into Monday with everybody loose and confident.”
The Wolverines grabbed a 1-0 lead late in the first half as Matias Akers took a Chavez cross at the back post and scored.
Highlands (11-7-2) began to up the pressure in the second half, but Polk goalkeeper Jonah Wyatt, subbing for injured starter Wilson Edwards, turned aside each challenge. The Wolverines also got a break with 22:52 remaining when back-to-back Highlands shots bounced off first the left post, then the right.
Akers fired a rocket from the left wing with 21:14 remaining, bending the ball into the left corner of the net, to give the Wolverines a 2-0 advantage.
Wyatt continued to turn aside each Highlands charge, but the Highlanders finally scored with 15:18 remaining, receiving an indirect free kick eight yards in front of the goal and converting.
Highlands upped the pressure on the Polk defense after the goal, but Wyatt continued to hold firm, making a sliding stop outside the box at one point just ahead of a charging Highlander.
“Jonah stepped up big-time after Wilson got injured in the Owen game,” Trejo said. “He definitely had some good saves on what I thought were going to be goals a few times. I’m proud of him.”
Chavez scored on a short blast with 2:06 remaining to up the lead to 3-1, and the Wolverines got a goal in the final seconds as Sean Hudson drew a foul in the penalty area. Johnathan Ramirez took the penalty and converted for the final margin.
“We played pretty well in the first half. We moved the ball pretty well,” Trejo said. “We’ve got a few people injured, and some people on the bench had to step up and did.”