ROCKINGHAM – It took until the the fourth game for the Richmond Senior High School boys soccer team to experience defeat for the first time this season Thursday night. In an all-around poor effort by the Raiders, Richmond (3-1) fell to visiting Pine Forest High School (4-2) by a tally of 5-1.
Playing in back-to-back nights for the first time this season, and its third game in four days, Richmond’s tired legs showed as they allowed a season-high five goals. Trailing by a single goal at the break, the wheels fell off for the Raiders just 0:48 seconds into the second half.
Trojans junior forward Isaiah Bennett muscled through the Raiders defense and had a short breakaway before ripping a shot from inside the box to beat senior goalkeeper Marcos Acosta. Bennett proved to be a menace all night, agitating Richmond’s center backs with strength and speed.
Head coach Bennie Howard noted that his team’s inability to move quickly to the ball and cut down Pine Forest’s shots on net were a direct result of why the Trojans scored as much as they did. Through the first three games this season leading up to Thursday’s match, Acosta had only allowed one goal.
“We aren’t the fastest in the back,” Howard said of his defense. “But we normally are much better than we were tonight. You can’t coach speed, and we didn’t have it tonight. Tonight’s defensive struggles are what kept us from having the ball and scoring.”
Trailing by a two-goal deficit with 35:26 left on the clock, the Raiders cut the lead to one when junior forward Carlos Alcocer maneuvered his way through traffic into the box and tapped one in. Earning the only goal of the night for Richmond, Alcocer now leads all Raiders scorers with four goals.
As the match waned on, both teams became visibly distraught with one another. The physicality picked up, culminating in senior forward Jonathan Tadlock’s red card and immediate game ejection for blatantly tripping Pine Forest’s keeper when he was preparing to get rid of the ball. Tadlock, who is second on the team with three goals, will need to take a sportsmanship course before returning to play.
Pine Forest tacked on three more goals in an 18-minute span, which started at the 19:11 mark when the Trojans offense made easy-doings of the holes in the Raiders defense. On a cross-pitch into Richmond’s box, a Pine Forest player booted a hard shot on the ground to get past a sprawling Acosta.
Following a yellow card issued to Alcocer for bumping a player to the ground, Pine Forest scored again on the ensuing direct kick. Launching the ball 40 yards toward the net, the Trojans offense settled the ball in the box before launching it into the net with 14:13 left.
To close the night’s scoring with 1:02 remaining, Pine Forest broke away on an offensive rush, switching the ball across the field before finding a lone forward in front of the next. Acosta made a valiant attempt to save the ball, but it squeaked under this right arm.
“I hate to lose a game,” Howard said, “but like I told our guys, I’d rather lose a non-conference game early in the season so we can learn from this. We will use this as a learning experience to prepare for a busy week next week as conference play begins.”
The Raiders junior varsity team won for the second consecutive night, as head coach Chris Larsen’s team shutout the Trojans 4-0. Larsen said his team has rebounded quickly since Monday’s late-game loss against Union Pines, and he likes to see his players making adjustments.
“We played well again tonight,” Larsen said. “Our players learned the hard way what happens when they lose focus, but they are playing tough and finding ways to get the ball in the net. Many different players are getting playing experience, which should help us in the next two games.”
Sophomore forward Luke Hawks had two goals, with freshmen Noah Aiken and Hector Castro picking up the other two.
Next week, the Raiders will open Sandhills Athletic Conference play with two home games. They’ll host Purnell Swett High School (2-0-2) on Monday, followed by an always highly-anticipated matchup against Pinecrest High School (2-1-1) Wednesday. Both games will start with junior varsity at 5:30 p.m., followed by varsity at 7 p.m.