ROCKINGHAM — A total of 100 minutes of soccer wasn’t enough time to decide the winner of Wednesday’s conference opener.
Playing for the first time since Aug. 23 as a result of several weather-related postponements, the Richmond Raiders battled through regulation and two overtime periods with Pinecrest High School in their first Sandhills Athletic Conference match.
A physical match that weighed in favor of the Patriots for a majority of the game, Richmond drew even with Pinecrest 0-0.
The tie against their Moore County rivals was the Raiders’ best finish against them since a 3-2 victory on Oct. 17, 2016. Wednesday’s outcome snapped a 15-match losing streak to the Patriots.
The opening 40 minutes of play was fast-moving, as Pinecrest kept Richmond in its defensive third for most of the half.
Keeping the pressure up on defense, the Raiders defended 10 shots on goal.
Junior goalkeeper Adrian Padron made a handful of athletic stops, starting with a diving stop in the fifth minute.
Padron made a punch save off the post a few minutes later and grabbed several balls out of the air. He swiped away a bouncing ball in the box in the final minute.
Richmond had a couple chances on goal in the closing 15 minutes before the break. Senior forward James Eason made a run into the box but was stopped by a sliding keeper and senior center back Danny Jaimes sent a hard grounder on frame a minute later.
Head coach Chris Larsen encouraged the Raiders to keep pushing during his halftime speech, noting that it was one of the best halves of soccer the team has played all season.
Momentum swung in Richmond’s favor in the next 40 minutes, with the Raiders keeping possession around midfield and creating a couple of scoring chances.
Senior Matteo Rubbiano, an exchange student from Italy, ripped a shot from outside the 18-yard box that hit the upper left 90 in the 47th minute for a near goal.
After a series of close misses, Rubbiano nearly struck again in the 65th minute. On a counter attack, a bouncing ball found him in the box and his shot was deflected just wide of the net.
Less than two minutes later, Jaimes used his body to stop a shot along the goal line and preserve the scoreless tie, one of several key defensive plays late in the game for Richmond.
Eason was inches away from giving Richmond the lead in the 68th minute. Corralling the ball in the right corner and working around a defender, Eason sent a tight-angled strike that kissed the crossbar.
Near the end of regulation, an on-field injury to a Pinecrest player resulted in nearly a 30-minute pause in action before the start of the mandatory two 10-minute overtime periods.
The Raiders played on their defensive heels for much of the first overtime chunk, but big stops kept the game even.
Junior Gonzalo Morales made a sweeping save by heading the ball across the goal mouth in the 88th minute.
Following the ensuing corner kick, Rubbiano made back-to-back stops with his body and head to save two more shot attempts, which was redirected out of the back by senior Jesus Castro.
The Patriots (5-1-1, 0-0-1 SAC) had a chance to win it in the second overtime when two balls were put on frame in the final 10 minutes. One was caught by Padron and the other hit the side netting.
Richmond’s best chance to score was a header attempt from Eason in the 95th minute. Making one last defensive stop, a wall of defenders blocked a Pinecrest free kick in the final 90 seconds.
Richmond (2-2-1, 0-0-1 SAC) has a quick turn around and will host Southern Lee High School (2-2, 0-0 SAC) for another conference match on Thursday. The varsity Raiders will begin at 7 p.m.
JV Raiders also draw even
Ahead of the varsity match, the Richmond junior varsity soccer team battled the JV Patriots to the final whistle.
Ending in a 1-1 draw, scoring for the JV Raiders was sophomore Erick Jimenez.
Richmond trailed 1-0 at the half before Jimenez netted the equalizer in the opening minute of the second half.
“It was a great effort from the guys tonight,” head coach Bennie Howard said. “They battled back and Erick scored a nice goal to get us even.
“I was able to play a lot of guys a lot of minutes to keep us fresh for tomorrow. If we had done the little things, I think we could have gotten the win tonight.”
Now 1-1-2 overall, and 0-0-1 in the SAC, the JV Raiders will play again at home on Thursday. Action against Southern Lee will start at 5 p.m.