Dragons denied: Early stop helps spark Polk to 4-0 triumph

On his opponent’s best chance of the night, Polk County goalkeeper Cade Bright was brilliant.

As a North Carolina School for Science and Math player streaked toward the Wolverines’ goal on a breakaway, Bright made a decision.

“I was thinking about how I was going to challenge the ball,” Bright said. “I could slide, which could have put me in danger. I thought staying up was the right call, because I could keep myself safe and still keep the ball out. I just go straight off instinct.”

His instincts were spot-on. Bright deflected the ball away, and the game remained scoreless. The Dragons had a corner 10 minutes later, and never seriously threatened again, as Polk County took a 4-0 win Wednesday in G.M. Tennant Stadium to move to 2-0-1 on the year.

“Cade has very good fast-twitch muscles, he’s really instinctual, and he’s done that before for us,” Polk County coach George Alley said. “That’s a game changer. If he doesn’t make that save, it’s 1-0 the other way and they were doing a good job with their defensive shape. They were really locking it in back there. That save was big for us.”

Meanwhile, the Wolverines’ offense was heating up. Thomas Varnadore lofted a shot over the NCSSM keeper to put Polk County on the board at the 17:30 mark, while Sebastian Azar drilled one into the lower left corner at 6:24, doubling the Wolverines’ lead to 2-0 at the half.

Polk County kept up the offensive energy after the half, with a good chance less than a minute into the second and another at the 33:40 mark that just missed. Varnadore and Azar teamed up again less than a minute later, as Varnadore lofted a soft touch that Azar headed in for a 3-0 advantage.

Owen Highsmith had a shot saved at the 22-minute mark, then fired another just high. He very nearly played a role in the Wolverines’ final goal, leaping over a Manny Albarran shot that was already past the keeper. Albarran’s goal at 15:50 was the final score of the night to make it 4-0.

Alley was happy with the Wolverines’ effort.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I’ve kind of been hammering them about keeping possession and not turning to the pressure, and they really did that tonight. We made a lot more simple passes. Credit the School for Science and Math, I thought we were even for about the first 15 minutes. But we were patient, and we’ve got some speed up top, and I think ultimately that was the difference.”

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