Polk County overcame a bit of adversity – not to mention Mountain Island Charter School – to remain alive Wednesday in the state 1A boys soccer playoffs.
The Wolverines got two goals in the final eight minutes from Salvador Chavez to hand the Raptors a 2-1 setback in a first-round postseason battle in G.M. Tennant Stadium.
Polk County (10-9-1) advances to the second round, where the Wolverines will face Bishop McGuinness, the second seed in the 1A West Regional. That game is set for Saturday at 4 p.m. in Kernersville.
The Wolverines twice thought they had goals in the second half, only to see both denied by offsides calls as Mountain Island Charter successfully worked its offsides trap on defense. The most notable of those came with 22:15 remaining, when Chavez appeared to collect a shot deflected by Mountain Island goalkeeper Mason Graham and put the rebound into the back of the net for a go-ahead score.
Match officials, though, huddled for a long time and eventually waved off the goal due to an offsides penalty, much to the frustration of Polk County’s side of W.J. Miller Field.
Moments later, Polk County received a second unfortunate break. Raptor Sebatian Perna took a free kick from the left wing, not far outside the penalty area. Perna’s kick angled into a mass of players just in front of the Polk County goal and deflected into the net, giving the Raptors a 1-0 lead with 17 minutes remaining.
That score, plus the two goals lost to penalties, could have broken Polk County’s spirit. It did not.
“Overall, I’m very proud of the team,” said Polk County head coach Josh Trejo. “They get that goal on the deflection, and we could have put our heads down and said it’s over. But we didn’t and we continued to work.”
With Chavez, Matias Akers, Isaac Edwards and Luis Hernandez pushing forward at every opportunity, the Raptor defense finally cracked. Hernandez helped push an attack into the penalty area, where Chavez collected possession of the ball on the right side, dribbled near Graham and then blasted a shot into the net with 7:43 remaining for the equalizing goal.
Energized by that tally, the Wolverines continued to press, and were rewarded with 2:03 left in regulation when Chavez outraced a defender to a free ball in the box and drilled a shot from the right wing into the left side of the net.
The Raptors (6-14-1) managed one long shot in the final two minutes, easily collected by Polk County goalkeeper Wilson Edwards.
“The first half was very interesting. We were just trying to feel the game out since we didn’t know much about them,” Trejo said. “I was a little frustrated with our work ethic in the first half. At halftime, I took Luis and Salvador aside and said, ‘I need you all. I need you to work.’ And they worked harder in the second half.
“With 17 minutes left and down 1-0, we worked really hard. We didn’t quit and we didn’t give up. Lucky for us, we got those two goals.”