RED SPRINGS – A potential game-tying goal was disallowed and East Bladen pounded the Red Springs goal with shot after shot in the 2nd half, but the Red Devils held on for a 2-1 Three Rivers Conference boys’ soccer victory Monday.
The Eagles, now 2-1 in TRC play and 6-1 overall, close out their season at home Wednesday against West Bladen and need a win and a St. Pauls win over Red Springs Wednesday to force a 3-way tie for the conference title. A Red Springs win and an Eagle win gives Red Springs the top spot with East Bladen in second place.
A pair of late 1st half goals were the first goals that East Bladen has allowed this season. Javier Villagomez scored the initial goal 6:27 before intermission, and Gael Rodriguez banged in a ricochet of a blocked shot 4 minutes later to give the Red Devils a 2-0 halftime lead.
“We too often had players out of position especially during the transition parts of the match,” noted Eagle Coach Jay Raynor. “On both goals our wingers didn’t get back to cover the backside. That’s how we have played for years within the system. Not sure if it was lapses of judgment or poor choices being made. It really is on me because that should never happen. Everyone should do their job and adhere to their role. Individualism cost us tonight.”
The Red Devils only had 5 shots in the game – all in the 1st half. East Bladen outshot Red Springs 18-5 in the game and 12-0 in the 2nd half.
“Half our chances had us 1-on-1 with the keeper and we couldn’t convert,” stated Raynor. “That’s not like us. Mentally we weren’t locked in and that’s on me. I didn’t do a good enough job motivating my guys to play.”
Senior Garrett Melvin sliced the Red Springs lead to 2-1 with a goal in the 55th minute off of a feed from senior Will Hester. Two minutes later the Eagles appeared to have tied the game 2-2, but the goal was disallowed as the officials ruled a throw-in had gone directly into the net without being touched.
“That was very questionable,” said Raynor. “Will had a long throw that the goalkeeper tipped out and we tapped in. The head official allowed it, but assistant referee called him over, and they decided to disallow it. Hard call to make. We should have done what we needed to do and left the game out of the hands of the officials.”
The Eagles continued to fire shot after shot at the Red Springs net but couldn’t connect. East Bladen had 3 shots on goal in the final 2 minutes.
“I didn’t think the better team won but I do think the team that wanted it more did,” said Raynor. “We knew we needed a result here to hopefully win the conference and secure a playoff spot. We knew that and did not bring what we needed to at the start of the match.”
Raynor praised the play of his backline. “Jay (McKoy), Freddy (Wooten), and Chase (Starkloff) played an excellent game tonight. Couldn’t be more proud of them limiting shots and picking up steals to transition us into our attack. Will Hester left it all on the field. He was a huge part in controlling the second half. Also need to give Lafon Monroe credit. We needed energy and he brought it off the bench. We are down a few starters last Wednesday and today so we have had to rely on others like Lafon, Jamie Delgado, and Zac Metz in the midfield.”
“I thought I didn’t do a great job scouting them,” said Raynor. “We wanted to keep them in front of us, attack quickly and over the top, and earn deep throw-ins. For the most part we did those things but at times we weren’t in the correct position or do what our system calls for. I didn’t obviously make it clear enough of what I wanted from them and their roles on the evening.”
The Eagles close out the regular season Wednesday when they host West Bladen at 4:30.