Polk County players celebrate Scout Harmon’s first-half goal in Monday’s match

Polk bests Owen to keep WHC title hopes alive

Owen lost a soccer match Monday night but immediately gained a new group of fans.

Polk County would love nothing more to win at least a share of the Western Highlands Conference title in its final season in the league, and those hopes remain alive after the Wolverines’ convincing 3-1 victory over the Warhorses in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

Polk County (6-2-1, 4-2), which leaves the WHC after this season due to realignment, is now tied for second with Owen (6-2, 4-2) in the WHC race, each a game behind Madison (7-1, 6-1) in the loss column. If all other results fall as expected, then the WHC title will be decided April 28 when Madison hosts Owen, a match that Polk County will need Owen to win in order to gain a share of the conference crown.

That assumes, of course, that Polk County goes unmatched in its remaining WHC matches. Performances such as Monday will do much to make that happen.

The Wolverines grabbed an early lead, lost it a few minutes later and then kept Owen out of the net the rest of the night. Polk was largely the more aggressive team offensively, often sending long passes deep into Owen’s half of the field, and that strategy paid off in the second half.

Polk County defender Julia Griffin stops an Owen attack during the first half of Monday’s match

The Wolverines regained the lead in the 57th minute as Taytem Johnson snared a free ball in the Warhorses’ end and looped a high pass toward the Owen back post. The ball hit in the penalty area and bounced once toward the feet of Caelan Gaul, whose first touch from some 10 yards out settled into the net for a 2-1 Polk lead.

The Wolverines moved defender Rollins Carter into the offensive end of the field in the final portion of the second half, and that move reaped dividends in the final minutes as Carter delivered an insurance goal, chipping a high arcing shot in the 83rd minute that just cleared Owen’s goalkeeper and slid under the crossbar.

Polk County pressed offensively from the opening kick and grabbed the lead in the eighth minute. Emily Gaul boomed a drive from the midfield area that, much like Polk’s latter goal, bounced once in the penalty area and toward the near post. With the Owen keeper staying in net, Caelan Gaul reached the bounding kick just before it went out of bounds and chipped it back across the goalmouth, where Scout Harmon tapped the ball home for a 1-0 Wolverine lead.

Owen scored six minutes later off a corner kick, evening the match at 1-1, and the teams settled into a back-and-forth fray until Polk’s second-half tallies.

Polk County will return to W.J. Miller Field on Wednesday, hosting Avery in a 6 p.m. match that can also be seen on the NFHS Network.