RED SPRINGS — The chances were there, but the Red Springs soccer team failed to execute.
After struggling out of the gate and allowing two goals during the first 10 minutes of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to East Bladen in the first round of Class 2A state playoffs, the No. 6 seeded Red Devils largely controlled the tempo of the game, especially in the second half.
Even with an offensive push that kept the visiting Eagles spent on their heels, the Red Devils couldn’t convert on the opportunities they had.
“It was a slow start for us and we got caught up playing long ball,” said Red Springs coach Greg Potter. “(Raul Dominguez) had a great game in the second half, he did all the things he asked from him as far as passing in the midfield and dribbling in the attacking third, we just came up a little short today.”
Red Springs was one of two eliminations the county faced in Wednesday’s first round games. St. Pauls lost 10-0 to Clinton in the 2A bracket. Lumberton was the county’s only team to advance to the second round, getting a 3-2 home win against Southern Alamance in the 4A playoffs.
For the Eagles, the key to advancing was a 28 second stretch in the first 10 minutes of the game.
East Bladen’s forwards found a short window of time where they controlled possession in the front of the box. Midfielder Alex Felder used it as an opportunity to sneak forward through the gaps and score.
The first goal came on a short, lobbed pass from Jose Diaz a few feet away. The pass landed right at Felder’s foot and he struck it as a defender lunged to get in the way.
He scored from nearly the same place 28 seconds later to make it 2-0 with 31:27 left in the half.
“He placed himself in the right spot,” said East Bladen coach Jay Raynor. “One was a heck of a volley, we worked on that a little bit (Tuesday) in a finishing drill, so it was good. He’s the catalyst of our midfield, he’s the hard worker and he doesn’t quit. The games where he’s kind of slacked off and had a bad game, you see us having bad games.”
Though Felder’s input was largely in the first two minutes, it was enough to send the Eagles to the second round, even if Red Springs kept the rest of it interesting.
Dominguez scored Red Springs’ only goal with 13 minutes left in the first half, putting in a rebound from Ismael Castillo.
In the second half, the Red Devils controlled possession and had shot totals to match, putting eight on goal to East Bladen’s three.
East Bladen goalie Matthew Massengill found numerous key saves. With two minutes left, Dominguez had a breakaway look that was deflected away by Massengill’s fingertips as he slid low to take away the shot.
“The way it started in the first 12 minutes, I wouldn’t have thought it would be a dog fight all the way out, but I’ll give it to Red Springs, they did not quit,” Raynor said. “They made some key switches and I think they upped the intensity.”
Lumberton advanced to the second round in a 3-2 win against Southern Alamance that left the Pirates banged up.
“It’s probably one of the most physical games we’ve been a part of all year,” Lumberton coach Kenny Simmons said. “We’re pretty beat up.”
All the scoring was in the first half, with the Pirates utilizing a hat trick from Colby Johnson.
Johnson started his scoring 30 seconds into the game, beating the goalie to a long throw in from Jace Ward and tapping it into the net.
The play resulted in a collision that left Johnson’s nose bloodied and caused him to leave the game momentarily.
“We got him patched up, stuffed his nose full of cotton,” Simmons said.
Johnson later returned and scored twice more on balls from Miguel Bello.
The two teams struggled to find scoring chances in the second half.
In goal, Pablo Lozano played his first complete game for the Pirates since returning from an injury. He recorded six saves.
The Pirates play at New Hanover, the tournament’s No. 4 overall seed, in the second round on Saturday night at Legion Stadium in Wilmington.
Hoke lost 2-0 to the Wildcats in the first round. Simmons expects a tough game but said his biggest concern is whether his team will be healthy enough to play well.
“It will be a challenge. They’re traditionally a strong team,” Simmons said. “We’ll try to look at some things and come up with a game plan.”