ROCKINGHAM – Soccer, by no stretch of the imagination, is a cliché sport. However, Richmond Senior High School boys soccer coach Bennie Howard dug an old adage out the bag following the Raiders’ 5-1 victory Thursday over Sandhills Athletic Conference opponent Seventy-First High School.
“Sometimes it’s not always about how you start a game,” Howard said with a grin. “But it’s more important how you finish it. And that was the case in tonight’s match.”
The Raiders (6-4, 3-2 SAC), who have battled through a midseason slump, picked up only their third win in the last seven matches. The game’s outlook was iffy to start, as the Falcons (1-7, 1-3 SAC) netted the first goal of the night just 29 seconds into the match.
But Richmond collected itself quickly and went on a 5-0 run to take home its second straight conference win, following a 1-0 victory over Lumberton last week.
Scoring the most goals in a single match since August 28th’s 9-0 against Purnell Swett High School, the Richmond offense saw two players score twice, and its No. 1 offensive threat added a goal to his team lead.
Junior forward Carlos Alcocer equalized the game when he scored his only goal of the night not much later in the first half. Alcocer leads Richmond’s scoring attack with seven goals near the halfway point of the season.
Scoring what would ultimately be the game-winning goal, senior forward Victor Lucero (six goals on the season) tallied his first of two goals by converting on an assist from senior teammate Brett Baucom after a loose ball following a corner kick.
Shortly thereafter, to close the half on a 3-0 streak, senior forward Jonathan Tadlock joined the scoring affair when he netted a rebound off a shot by sophomore teammate Noah Jordan. Tadlock (five total goals scored this season) was the other Richmond player to score two goals.
Leading 3-1 at the half, the Raiders defense buckled down and never looked back. The second half of play was dominated by Richmond, as it possessed the ball for the majority of the time in Falcons territory. Howard noted that his players were connecting their passes and kept the pressure on until the final whistle.
Junior midfielder Kyle Goodwin (14) corrals a ball in Monday’s 5-1 win. Goodwin, along with several other Raiders, played stellar defense to hold the Falcons to one goal.
“I told my players to not take Seventy-First lightly,” Howard said. “They have speed and little bit of skill. They proved that in the first 29 seconds, but we were able to get our act together. After tying the game, we made some nice runs and put some nice balls in play to connect to win tonight.”
At the 37:31 mark of the second half, Lucero dribbled the ball along the right side of the box from a throw in, and launched a sharp-angled shot on net, which deflected off of senior goalkeeper Hasani Anderson’s diving hands. Just over eight minutes later, Tadlock finished the night’s scoring when he received a great lead pass from Alcocer, weaved through traffic, and gained separation from Seventy-First’s defenders before netting his second goal on a wide-open net that Anderson never had a chance to defend.
“We played the ball really well together as a team,” Tadlock said. “My first goal was assisted by Noah (Jordan), and he just slid it across and I put it in because no one was there.
“My second goal, Carlos (Alcocer) played it really early and I just put it past the keeper,” Tadlock added. “As long as we can keep climbing and the wins rolling, we can hopefully make the playoffs.”
After going up by four goals, Howard substituted many of his starters with his reserves. Players like Nolan Allen, Jose Fonseca, Chris Helms and Steven Morales got playing time. Howard also gave senior goalkeeper Marcos Acosta, who mad several impressive sliding stops, a rest, replacing him with junior Jackson Haley.
The junior varsity team had the night off, and will return to play later in the week.
With its win tonight, the Raiders varsity team remain locked into the four-seed position in SAC play. They trail Pinecrest (5-0), Lumberton (3-1) and Jack Britt (4-2). Richmond is set to face all three teams for a second time in the coming weeks, with the hope of being able to secure a top-two spot.
Action will continue for the Raiders, as they’ll travel east on Highway 74 Wednesday night to face off against Scotland High School (3-9, 1-4 SAC). The Fighting Scots have lost their last three games (Lumberton, Pinecrest and East Bladen High School) by a combined 25-1. Junior varsity will begin at 5:15 p.m., followed by varsity at 7 p.m.
The Richmond Observer is also pleased to announce that one of the boys soccer players will be named this week’s “male athlete of the week.” Be sure to tune into Wednesday’s edition to find out who he is.