A fierce wind blew across Polk County Middle School Wednesday night – and helped blow Polk County out of the state 2A boys soccer playoffs.
A hearty breeze at its back, Lexington scored twice in the second half to take a 3-1 victory over Polk County in first-round playoff action.
The 17th seed in the 2A West bracket, Lexington (8-11-5) now gets a shot at the top seed and top-ranked team in the state, Newton-Conover. The 21-1 Red Devils downed Madison 8-0 on Wednesday and will host Lexington on Saturday. For Polk County, the 16th seed, its season ends at 12-6-2.
Winds ranging from 15-25 mph, per a weather station adjacent to the field, blew directly across the field from goal to goal throughout both halves of Wednesday’s game, turning every corner kick, goal kick and throw-in into an adventure. Polk County had the wind at its back in the first half and had the better of the match, taking a 1-0 lead 15 minutes in on a David Sanchez goal and nearly scoring on at least two other opportunities.
But late in the first half, Rodolfo Ramos provided the spark the Yellowjackets needed, dribbling past two defenders deep into the penalty area on the right side, then firing a low shot that banked off the left post and into the net. That score not only equalized the match, but buoyed Lexington’s spirits at the break.
“When it was 1-0 I was thinking that if could we just keep it 1-0 until the half, I’d be satisfied,” said Lexington head coach Tim DeZego. “Then we went and got that amazing goal down there. Our kids were very confident at halftime because we were tied and we knew we’d have the wind at our backs.”
“Ramos made the difference in the game,” said Polk County head coach Lennox Charles. “If they don’t get that goal, their confidence wasn’t very high at that point. That changed the game completely, and that’s what players like that can do.
“The one thing in soccer that can give you an advantage is the wind, when you have it. We had it, and we clearly had more chances when we had the wind than they did. We had better chances, for sure. And we got one goal and they got one goal.”
Ramos nearly scored just over a minute into the second half, but the go-ahead goal wasn’t long in coming as minutes later, Polk County’s defense failed to clear a ball in front of the goal, allowing Amiel Cervantes to knock it in for what proved to be the game-winner. Omar Martinez scored with 1:24 remaining for the final margin.
Despite battling the wind as well as Lexington’s defense, Polk County had two good scoring chances in the final 25 minutes. The best of those came with four minutes left as Wil Rimer fired a hard shot within the box that Lexington goalkeeper Rey Cuanas deflected away, moving slightly to his left to make the save. The other came minutes earlier when Sanchez headed a pass from Jeremy Allsbrook just over the crossbar.
“I think we got so carried away with getting forward because of the wind that we got away from trying to pass,” Charles said. “In the second half, we did a better job passing again. We had a really good last 25 minutes. I thought we had the better of the game, even against the win and playing from behind.”
The Wolverines took the early lead when Allsbrook floated a perfect pass off the left wing into the box to Sanchez, making a run at the right post. Sanchez flicked the pass past Cuanas to give Polk County the early lead.
The Wolverines continued to pressure Lexington as the Yellowjackets had few scoring chances, often missing high with those they did have. But Polk County couldn’t get a second goal on the scoreboard, and when Ramos ricocheted his goal in with eight minutes left in the half, the Wolverines were left to rue those missed opportunities.
“When you think about the chances we had in the first half, balls bouncing in there and throw-ins,” Charles said. “We did a good job creating chances. We just ddn’t put them into the goal.”