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Photos by Kenneth Armstrong

ELIZABETHTOWN – Junior Benjamin Ames flicked in a disputed goal for the game-winner with 6 minutes left to play that gave Dixon a 1-0 victory over East Bladen Tuesday night in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 2A men’s soccer play-offs.

The Bulldogs sent a pass across the face of the goal and defenders and attackers slipped down. Ames tried to kick it in with his feet while lying on the ground, and the ball appeared to hit his hand and roll into the goal.

“The head referee called his assistant over and discussed it, but they had a bad angle and there were four bodies on the ground making it harder to see,” said Eagle Coach Jay Raynor. “We played very well, but we were just unlucky there.”

The Eagles had a couple of good chances in the first half, but there best scoring chance came when junior Gabe Barber took a feed from senior Greyson Heustess and blasted a shot from 12 yards out that the Dixon keeper was able to hang on to despite the moisture on the ball.

“We kept fighting until the end,” continued Raynor. “We had three headers in the final minute but couldn’t get the ball in the net.”

“They wanted to play a methodical possession offense, and we forced them to change up their offense several times with our speed and quickness,” noted Raynor.

“Jay McGill had a terrific game winning balls for us in the midfield,” said Coach Raynor. “Pierce (Melvin) marked their No. 1 player and did a great job on him. Keshaun (Davis), Ezequiel (Arteaga) and Jay McKoy didn’t let them get through our backline.”

Raynor added, “Will Hester had a phenomenal game using his physicality in midfield. Gabe and Garrett (Melvin) had really good nights, and Dan (Tatum) came back from his injury and did all he could.”

“This team has come a long way,” stated Raynor. “They have really played together as a team over the last 3 weeks. We are better than what people think. We played the No. 3 ranked team in the state and did everything we needed to do – just got unlucky at the end.”

The Eagles conclude their season with an 18-2-2 record and the Three Rivers Conference championship. Seven seniors – goalie Spencer Scott, Tatum, Arteaga, Pierce Melvin, Bryan Monroe, Heustess and Davis – finished their East Bladen careers in the game.

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