ROCKINGHAM – Despite another slow start, the Richmond Senior High School boys soccer team found some late match lightning in a bottle to propel them to a 3-1 victory Wednesday night against Union County’s Central Academy of Technology and Arts.
Playing their second game in three nights, the Raiders (4-0) didn’t find their stride until the 70-minute mark. Head coach Bennie Howard voiced his concern with his team’s effort against the Cougars (0-4) even though his team remained undefeated.
“I’m happy that we won,” Howard said. “But I’m not pleased with the way we played tonight. CATA is a good program, but we didn’t manage the ball well. We can’t have guys on the field who don’t put forth effort the whole game.”
As the Raiders extended their early-season winning streak to four games, senior forward Carlos Alcocer got the scoring started in the first half. Alcocer (3), who scored a game-high two goals, drilled a shot hard and low to the ground, beating the keeper on the far post from inside the box. The rest of the first half saw no further scoring, and Howard felt his team “didn’t play to their capabilities” in many capacities. But with the second half came a second wind of energy.
CATA was the first team to find the back of the net in the second half, and tied the game at the 34:05 mark. Richmond failed to clear the ball out of its own end, and a CATA player launched a rocket from 25 yards out that sailed past goalkeeper Marcos Acosta, hitting the upper left post before ricocheting off the right post and into the goal. This was the first goal Acosta has allowed all season.
With the fire to their boots, the Raiders players started communicating more and reminded one another to play with “higher intensity.” Alcocer, while running down the field, reminded his teammates that there was still plenty of time to make adjustments and win the game.
For the remainder of the game, Richmond dominated ball possession and held CATA from advancing deep into their territory but a handful of times. Utilizing better control and passing techniques, the Raiders applied a lot of offensive pressure after allowing the equalizer.
With 9:48 left on the clock, Richmond was rewarded for its better second-half performance. Following a throw in near midfield on the right side by senior center back Zane Ritter, Alcocer weaved through traffic before crossing the ball into the box to sophomore forward Noah Jordan. Contested, Jordan attempted a shot that skittered in front of the net on a rebound. Alcocer grabbed his second goal on the night by crashing toward the goal and beating the keeper to his left.
Minutes later, at the 2:43 mark, Richmond wrapped things up when senior forward Brett Baucom lasered a shot on from 30 yards out. Senior forward Jonathan Tadlock corralled the ball on the reboudn and poked it past the keeper from inside the box. Tadlock has scored three goals in the last three games, and is tied with Alcocer for the team lead.
“Overall, we played a much better second half,” Howard said. “Carlos and Jonathan are doing what I expect seniors to do by scoring. Tonight’s game was hopefully an eye opener for us, as our next game could be difficult if we don’t execute the plays we need to.”
The junior varsity team rebounded nicely after Monday’s late-game collapse against Union Pines, which saw the Raiders give up two goals in the final 70 seconds. Richmond defeated CATA handily, netting eight goals, four in each half, and keeping the Cougars scoreless.
Getting on the scoresheet for the Raiders (2-2) were a handful of players, with freshman forward Noah Aiken scoring two goals. Tallying one goal a piece were sophomore midfielder Kevin Aiken, sophomore forward Cole Deane, sophomore center back Kevyn Leviner, freshman forward Cale Luckey, freshman midfielder Brady Edmunds and freshman center back Mack West.
“We scored in the first 30 seconds, so that was a good start following Monday’s game,” junior varsity head coach Chris Larsen said. “We played a full game tonight, and we took what we learned from the other night and applied it. Our guys weren’t complacent, and they put the ball in the back of the net every chance they got.”
Richmond will finish its week by hosting Pine Forest High School (3-2) of Cumberland County Thursday night. Pine Forest defeated Douglas Byrd High School 9-0 Wednesday. Junior varsity will start at 5:30 p.m., followed by varsity at 7 p.m.