A late free kick proved the deciding factor earlier this season when Owen and Polk County’s boys soccer squads first met, the Warhorses taking a 1-0 win as the beneficiary of the score in the waning minutes.

Thursday night, the Wolverines returned the favor, with a touch of drama to boot.

David Sanchez flicked a header into the left corner of Owen’s goal with nine seconds remaining, lifting Polk County to a thrilling 1-0 win in a key Western Highlands Conference match at Polk County Middle School.

Still with a shot at earning one of the WHC’s two automatic playoff berths, Polk County (9-5-2, 7-3) remained a game behind Hendersonville in the race for second place. The two teams meet Monday in Hendersonville.

Owen wrapped up its conference schedule as league champions at 11-6 overall, 11-1 in WHC play. The Warhorses, who played Wednesday’s match without standout junior Jesse Foreman, clinched the league title on Monday with a win over Hendersonville.

“We played well. We played hard,” said Polk County head coach Lennox Charles. “I thought we started well. We had a period in the first half when we clearly had the better of the game.

“Tyler (Campbell) made a couple of saves to keep us in the game. It’s funny that Owen beat us on a free kick in the final minutes the first time, and now we turn around and beat them here on a free kick, but in the last 10 seconds.”

That Polk County even had the chance to score the winning goal was due to some good fortune – Sanchez was driving upfield and nearing the penalty area when he was fouled along the side boundary. The tackle drew a yellow card from the referee, and that card forced the clock to be stopped with 14 seconds remaining, leaving Polk County time to not only set up a final play, but execute it.

Jeremy Allsbrook took the free kick and drove a low, hard shot into the penalty area, where Sanchez leaned under the pass and flicked it almost over his shoulder. The shot tucked inside the left post.

“We had a couple of breaks, which is good, but our guys played hard,” Charles said. “Even though Owen had clinched, they didn’t come here to just lay down. They came to play to win the game. Obviously, if (Foreman) is hee that makes a huge difference, but we played very well.”