Polk County senior Mateo Mendoza leads a Polk County push upfield during the first half of Thursday's match

Early blow helps spark Gryphons in playoff win over Wolverines

A good shot on goal, then another and another. Save for a score, the first five minutes of Thursday’s playoff match couldn’t have gone much better for Polk County.

Until an instant changed both the momentum and course of the match.

Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy’s sudden first-half goal seemed to deflate Polk County, and though the Wolverines valiantly battled the Gryphons as well as a rain-soaked field, Thomas Jefferson went on to claim a 3-0 win in a 1A second-round match in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

The Gryphons (12-2-1) advance to Saturday’s third round. Polk County’s season ends at 8-3-1.

Its early scoring chances stopped by TJCA goalkeeper Ben Flontek, Polk County still had far the better of the opening few minutes. But that changed when Miller Plaster perfectly timed his approach to a loose ball in the middle of the field and Plaster-ed a 27-yard cannon into the upper third of the net. That gave the Gryphons the early lead and seemed to shock the Wolverines.

“They have a great team. They played well and they moved the ball well,” said Polk County head coach Josh Trejo. “We had a couple of errors. I think that first goal really killed us because we had three or four chances in the beginning and as soon as they hit that one, it was a done deal.

“Then, after that, we came into the next half, ready to go. We dropped the ball and once again, that killed our morale.”

That second goal, less than four minutes into the half off the foot of Jonattan Escalera, was the first of two he scored in the final 40 minutes, his final tally coming in the 76th minute.

Polk County, meanwhile, could never find the back of the net.

“I feel really bad for the seniors,” Trejo said. “I’m just at a loss for words because I know that’s not the team that I saw Tuesday (Polk’s 1-0 win over Elkin).

“The first three or four minutes, we put the pressure on, but our whole morale died. It didn’t help that every time we tried to move, we slipped and fell. Both teams had to play in it, though, so I’m not giving that as an excuse.”

Polk County’s Elliott Whiteside focuses on a possession during the first half of Thursday’s match