SOCCER: Gritty Wolverines challenge MF7-leading Patton in 3-1 setback

Published 1:38 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

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What Polk County occasionally lacked in execution Wednesday, the Wolverines more than compensated for with effort.

That grit and hustle kept the Wolverines with striking distance of conference leader Patton until the waning minutes, when the Panthers finally secured a 3-1 victory in a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference tussle in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

Patton (14-1-1, 7-0) barely nipped Polk County (6-6-2, 3-4) in the teams’ first meeting, needing an overtime penalty kick to record a 4-3 victory. The Panthers obviously remembered that result and began pressing from the outset in the rematch.

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The Wolverines held firm against the early pressure until Patton scored twice in a four-minute flurry in the first half, with Brandon Monroy connecting on a drive from the left wing and David Bernabe collecting a rebound off a saved shot and scoring.

Thus Patton led 2-0 in the 17th minute. The Panthers wouldn’t score again until an insurance goal with 3:29 remaining held off a late Polk County charge.

“That’s a tough team. They keep coming at you, they just reload, they’re solid all over the field,” said Polk County head coach George Alley. “I thought the guys came out in the beginning and kept them contained.

“One thing I’ve been talking to the guys a lot about is that we’re giving up a lot of fouls in our half of the field, and teams are getting a lot of goals, even if it’s not off the play, it’s right after the play. So I’m trying to get the guys to arrive on time a little bit more and not make that last-second foul.”

The Wolverines didn’t have a wealth of scoring chances throughout the evening, but did finally find the net with 8:19 remaining. Will Garrison struck a long free kick from near midfield well into the penalty area, allowing Thomas Varnadore to flick a header that found its mark.

That cut the Patton lead to 2-1, and a re-energized Polk squad began pushing for an equalizing goal until the Panthers scored off a corner kick in the closing minutes.

“Technically in the first half, we were pretty sloppy,” Alley said. “But then I thought we came out in the second half and they did what we do, competed until the very end and got that late goal. These guys are never out.”

Polk County will continue conference play on Monday, traveling to Hendersonville.