RED SPRINGS — East Bladen midfielder Alex Felder has a tendency to be where he’s needed the most.
“He’s the catalyst of our midfield, he’s the hard worker and he doesn’t quit,” said Eagle coach Jay Raynor. “The games where he’s kind of slacked off and had a bad game, you see us having bad games.”
Fortunately for his team, Felder didn’t have a bad game Wednesday. Instead, he had two goals during the first 10 minutes of Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Red Springs in the first round of Class 2-A state playoffs.
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 to play.
“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.”
Though Felder’s input was largely in the first 10 minutes, it was enough to send the Eagles to the second round, even if Red Springs kept the rest of it interesting.
Raul 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.
But for all the opportunities the Red Devils had and all the time the Eagles spent on their heels, the Red Devils simply couldn’t execute.
“It was a slow start for us and we got caught up playing long ball,” said Red Springs coach Greg Potter. “(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.”
In goal, East Bladen’s Matthew Massengill found key saves. With two minutes left, Dominguez had a breakaway look that was deflected away by Massengill’s fingertips as he slid 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.”
East Bladen, now 11-10-2, plays at Northeastern, 15-4-1, in Elizabeth City on Saturday in the second round.
— Scott Schlaufman is the sports editor for The Robesonian in Lumberton.