Home Local Sports Raiders Boys Soccer Narrows Playoff Chances with 2-0 Loss to Hoke County;...

Raiders Boys Soccer Narrows Playoff Chances with 2-0 Loss to Hoke County; Head Coach Bennie Howard Recognized by Former Players

Senior defender Zane Ritter (16) battles a Hoke player in Monday's 2-0 loss.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Pillar.

ROCKINGHAM – It’s crunch time for the Richmond Senior High School varsity boys soccer team as the push for the 2017 state playoffs looms ahead.

And it wasn’t able to answer the call Monday night to keep as its chances of making the playoffs narrowed, as the Raiders fell to Hoke County High School 2-0 in Sandhills Athletic Conference play.

In what has been a tumultuous couple of weeks that has seen Richmond go 3-2-1, the Raiders (8-7-1, 5-5-1 SAC) entered the night 5-4-1 and fifth in the SAC standings, and trailed the Bucks (7-6-4, 6-3-1 SAC) by two spots. Monday’s loss wasn’t the push in the right direction head coach Bennie Howard’s team had hoped for.

“I changed my goalkeeper to Ben (Morrison), and he played a great game,” Howard noted. “The first goal was a mix up, but we gave up the second goal so quickly in the second half. That just deflated us, and we played catch-up the rest of the game.

“Our problem this year has been when we get down, we have players who feel like they have to put the whole team on their back,” Howard continued. “If we just played team ball like we’re supposed to, we’d be doing a lot better than we are.”

In what looked like a fast start for Richmond, junior forward Carlos Alcocer had an early opportunity in the first eight minutes of play, but his goal was negated due to the Raiders being offside. After that, little went well for the Raiders.

The Bucks were able to maintain possession better than their counterparts, as they hovered in and around Richmond’s territory for most of the game. As the clock dwindled in the first half, with no score, Hoke broke onto the scoreboard for what would be the eventual game-winning goal.

With the Bucks on the attack, Richmond senior goalkeeper Ben Morrison, who got the start, came out to field a ball in his own box. But after an apparent miscommunication between him and one of his defenders, a Hoke forward corralled the ball and poked it into a wide-open net with 2:04 remaining in the first half.

After the break, Richmond’s defense didn’t fare much better, as it allowed Hoke’s second, and final, goal of the night just 0:29 seconds into the second frame. However, the Raiders did turn up the intensity the remainder of the match, but couldn’t get past an unyielding Hoke defense.


“We’ve got three (regular season) games left,” Howard said. “We’re in solid fifth place in the conference, and the only way we make the playoffs is if we win the whole (conference) tournament. If we don’t wake up and start doing what we ask, we’ll be collecting uniforms at the end of the season.”

Howard, who is retiring at the end of the school year after 30 years on Richmond’s coaching staff, had a host of players from his inaugural 1987 team honor his dedication and achievements. The 10 former team members gave Howard a signed soccer ball.

Members of the 1987 RSHS soccer team recognize Coach Bennie Howard for his 30 years of dedication during halftime of Monday’s game. Pictured left to right: Coach Steve Lear, Sam West, Kevin Williams, Richie Freeman, Mike Hudson, Johnny Chappell, Robbie Allen,  Jason Norton, Coach Bennie Howard, Allen Pait and Delma Hudson.

“It was great to see some familiar faces, I hadn’t seen some of them in a while,” Howard said smiling. “I appreciate the gesture. We’ve come a long way over the last 30 years, and those guys were the start of it.”

In junior varsity action, the Raiders defeated the Bucks 2-1. Scoring both of its goals in the first half, Richmond improved to 7-4-1, 4-3-1 (SAC) on the year.

Sophomore forward Luke Hawks netted the first goal, which came when he followed up on a set piece. Freshman forward Noah Aiken scored the second and game-winning goal not much later, after freshman Trevor Moss’ shot was bobbled by the goalkeeper.

Junior varsity head coach Chris Larsen noted that his team maintained possession throughout the match, but would have like to see more scoring from his players.

“It was a good win for us tonight,” Larsen said. “We were able to convert on some good opportunities, but I would like for us to get more balls in the back of the net. But I’m proud of the way our guys controlled the ball, and Luke and Noah had great goals.”

In what has been a far cry from last year’s conference championship team, the Raiders have three games remaining on the season. Both the junior varsity and varsity teams will be on the road Wednesday to face Lumberton. Varsity defeated the Pirates 1-0 at home on September 13. The JV team is set to start at 5:15 p.m., followed by varsity at 7 p.m.

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Kyle Pillar is a 22-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on X @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.