05/29/2024
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BLADENBORO – Junior Garrett Melvin fired in a second-half goal that lifted East Bladen to a 1-0 Three Rivers Conference boys’ soccer victory over West Bladen in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Melvin knocked in the game winner on a through ball from junior Jay McKoy early in the 2nd half.

“We experienced a lot of adversity tonight with losing players to injuries as well as having to play a man down,” said Eagle Coach Jay Raynor. “We knew the environment we were coming into and we did an okay job of dealing with it.

“Chase (Starkloff), Jay, and Jake (Evans) were huge for us down the stretch,” continued Raynor. “Jay made several stops on runs that were heading towards our goal. Jacob (Priest) had to make a big play on a free kick from just inside midfield in the closing minutes. He was credited with the shutout but did not have to make a save tonight.”

Knight Coach Phillip Turnage said, “It was a very close game. Our defense really stepped up.”

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Photos by Kenneth Armstrong

 

Raynor stated, “I’ll give West credit, the physical play and hard challenges took us out of our a game. We like to knock it around to find space but we did not do well during our holdup play tonight. A lot of physical challenges forced us into turnover or transition faster than we needed to.

“You could tell they wanted it,” added Raynor. “Their season was this final game. Combine that with the rivalry and you get the product that was on the field tonight. They want to beat us. It’s been 11 years since the 1-0 loss we experienced at West in 2008.”

Raynor continued, “Good teams find ways to win and these guys have done just that … 14-0 in conference and only allowed 2 goals (one was an own goal and the other a botched off-sides call).”

The Eagles have won 3 straight conference titles while going 41-1 (32 of those wins by shutout) in those conference matchups – outscoring conference foes 236-16.

The Eagles lost senior Milton Estrada early in the game. According to Raynor, Estrada will be under concussion protocol for the next 10-14 days.

“Proud of my guys,” concluded Raynor. “We look forward to the playoffs and seeing what challenge lies ahead. This is a tough group and one heck of a team. They can accomplish anything they put their mind to.”

With a 14-0 league record and 15-3-1 overall mark, East Bladen will wait for the NCHSAA play-off pairings to be announced Monday.

West Bladen completed their season with a 4-10 league record and 5-13-1 overall mark.

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