Polk County looked to make a statement in Wednesday’s matchup with 2A power Smoky Mountain – and wasted no time doing so.
The Wolverines scored twice in the first four minutes and never trailed in handing the Mustangs a 5-1 defeat in a non-conference clash at G.M. Tennant Stadium.
The match featured two teams with lofty rankings in the latest MaxPreps computer polls, with Polk County (7-1) currently ranked third in 1A as of Tuesday and Smoky Mountain (6-2-1) ranked 16th in 2A. That added some heft to the match, but so did the Mustangs’ 2-1 win over Owen in the season opener, given the Warhorses’ perennial status as the team to beat in the Western Highlands Conference.
“Smoky Mountain beat Owen 2-1, and we saw this as a chance to make a big statement as far as where we’re at going into conference,” said Polk County head coach Josh Trejo. “I told the boys that we had to bring it, to give everything we’ve got.
“The past few years, Owen has been the team that has been our problem. I want to go to state and I want to win state, but I want to start off by winning a conference championship. I’m excited for the boys because they know that we can beat Owen.”
Quick starts have been a hallmark of Polk County matches this season and Wednesday was no exception. The Wolverines tallied a minute into the match as Grayson Jones raced down the right wing for a long pass, reaching the ball near the end line and driving a perfect cross to the back post, where Alan Mejia waited for an easy tap into the net.
Slightly more than two minutes later, the Wolverines struck again as Cole Pereira hit a hard drive that glanced off a Smoky defender before finding the net, giving Polk a 2-0 lead in the fourth minute.
Smoky Mountain made it 2-1 late in the half, but the Wolverines struck again before the break. Jones once again won the race to a free ball down the right side, this time holding off a defender, taking one touch and beating charging Smoky goalkeeper Zeb Sink with a drive into the left corner of the net, putting the Wolverines up 3-1.
“In the first half we tend to come out with guns blazing,” Trejo said. “When you put one in early, the other team tends to drop their heads down. I’ve seen our guys do that when we give up an early goal. Tonight we put two goals in quickly and we saw a totally different Smoky.”
Polk continued to apply offensive pressure in the second half and the Wolverines were rewarded in the 48th minute as Sink deflected an Isaac Edwards drive, but to the back post, where Matias Akers had an easy kick-in goal. Edwards did get on the scoreboard in the 65th minute, connecting on an effort from inside the penalty area for the final goal of the night.
Jones finished with three assists for Polk, with Edwards and Mateo Mendoza each adding one. Greyson Ball had nine saves for the Wolverines.