Greyson Ball

Best Ball: Polk goalkeeper stops two PKs as Wolverines outlast Owen

Greyson Ball bounced on the goal line, awaiting the next Owen penalty kick.

Polk County head coach Josh Trejo stood yards away, yelling over the din in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

“Be the hero,” Trejo shouted. “Be the hero.”

It proved a role that fit Ball nicely. The Polk sophomore stopped two penalties, the second securing a chaotic 5-5 (4-2) Western Highlands Conference victory for the Wolverines.

Yet the win, which allowed Polk to maintain its two-game conference lead over Madison, may have come at a cost. Senior forward Isaac Edwards suffered a knee injury in the 61st minute and left the field on crutches, his left knee heavily wrapped. There was no immediate word on his condition.

The Wolverines will begin to worry about that Thursday. Wednesday night belonged to Ball and a Polk team that found a way to complete perhaps the first season sweep ever of Owen.

“At the end of the day we’re happy to get the win,” Trejo said. “The game shouldn’t have been as close as it was, given the chances we had. But it was a good experience for us.”

An experience it was, indeed.

Polk County (15-2, 6-0) clung to a 3-2 lead at the half, but Owen evened the match five minutes into the second half on a penalty kick. The Wolverines responded four minutes later as Grayson Jones unleashed a long throw that found Matias Akers open near the back post. Akers tapped in the pass to put Polk back into the lead.

Shortly after Edwards’ injury, Owen (5-9-1, 3-4) scored twice in a span of seven minutes, the latter giving the Warhorses a 5-4 advantage with just 10 minutes left in the match.

As time ticked away, Polk stepped up the offensive pressure, and that finally paid off with 1:59 left as Jones pushed into the right corner of the penalty area and hit a hard cross. The shot struck an Owen player and richochted into the left side of the net, evening the match.

Polk County goalkeeper Greyson Ball goes to his right to make the first of his two penalty kick saves in Wednesday’s shootout.

Both teams seemed to catch their breath during the two five-minute overtime periods, setting the stage for the shootout. Gaige Lewis, then Matias Akers scored for Polk before Ball made the first of his two saves, diving to his right to stop the low line drive.

Cameron Greve and Adam Kehrer each converted their attempts for the Wolverines. Ball then moved to his left, reached back and stopped Owen’s fourth attempt with his right hand. He rose to his feet ready for the next shot before realizing there would be none.

“I just stood up and was ready for the next one, then I saw everyone charging at me,” Ball said. “In penalty kicks, you can have everything happen. They can put the shot anywhere or they can blast it right at you as you move. You just have to commit to one side and stay composed and hope you got it.”

“I told him before the penalty kicks that you may have made some mistakes, but you can be the hero,” Trejo said. “He stepped up. I’m very proud of him. It takes a lot, mentally, to stand up there and guess where they’re going. Some guys won’t even do it. I’m happy he stopped two PKs. That should give him a real confidence boost.”

Polk County, which also played without injured senior defender Sean Hudson, fell behind in the 15th minute, but the Wolverines roared back a minute later as Jones drove down the right flank, angled toward the goal and hit a hard drive that found the net.

The Wolverines took a 2-1 lead in the 25th minute as Cameron Greve scored off a corner kick, then extended the lead 34 seconds later as Jones banked a shot off an Owen defender into the goal. The Warhorses trimmed the deficit to one in the 29th minute.

Then would come the back-and-forth second half and the penalty kick drama before Ball would save the day.

“I’m glad my coaches are behind me and my teammates are always supporting me,” Ball said. “They push me to be better every day, and it paid off.”