ROCKINGHAM – As the Richmond Senior High School boys soccer team opened Sandhills Athletic Conference play Monday night, it accomplished two goals: returning to the win column and successfully preparing for one of the biggest games of the young season.
Rebounding from Thursday’s 5-1 loss to Pine Forest High School, the Raiders (4-1, 1-0) steamrolled visiting Purnell Swett High School (2-1-2, 0-1) in a 9-0 blowout, reaching the mercy-rule limit with 24:52 remaining in the second half.
Behind sophomore midfielder Noah Jordan’s game-high two goals, Richmond tallied 18 total shots and had eight players find the back of the net. In their largest victory of the season, the Raiders matched their season total in goals and improved their season goal differential to +12, outscoring opponents 18-6.
“Purnell Swett is a young team, but they played tough,” Howard said. “They don’t give up, but we were able to hit our targets and find space. Our boys played a faster-paced game tonight, and they were rewarded.”
Jumping out to a quick, unrelenting offensive attack, Richmond’s senior forward Brett Baucom netted his first goal of the season at the 34:33 mark of the first half. After receiving a lead pass from junior forward Carlos Alcocer just outside the 18-yard box, Baucom ripped a shot past goalkeeper Nick Ramierz into the upper right corner.
The Raiders, who have struggled with ball control and “hitting their targets” the past couple of games, scored five more first-half goals in an 18-minute span. Following senior goalkeeper Yash Patel’s punt, Jordan (3) grabbed his first goal of the night by splitting several Rams defenders into the box and drilling a low screamer into the right side.
The next two Richmond goals came just two minutes apart, the first at 23:56 by Jordan. Senior center back Zane Ritter set up the play at midfield and sent an outlet pass to senior forward Jonathan Tadlock, who crossed the ball to a charging Jordan. Before Purnell Swett could recover, junior defender Nolan Allen led an attack out of the back that culminated in a header by sophomore midfielder Joey Nicholson.
Howard acknowledged that his team adjusted from its mistakes against Pine Forest, and used that loss as a learning experience in order to execute plays Monday night.
The Raiders tacked on two more goals before the half, as Howard freely substituted many of his bench players into the game. Senior midfielder Patrick Hamilton and junior midfielder Evyn Brower each picked up their first goals of the season, allowing the Raiders to head into halftime leading 6-0.
“Tonight we changed our point of attack,” Jordan said. “Coach Howard tells us all the time that we are ‘one team with one goal’. We used our forwards to be more central toward the goal, which helped in the positioning and passing of the ball.”
It only took Richmond 15:08 into the second half to score three more goals and walk off the pitch victorious. After a trip by the Rams inside their own box at 38:33, senior forward Victor Lucero tallied his second goal of the year on a free kick, beating Ramierz by placing the ball perfectly in the upper right corner. Alcocer didn’t take long to join the scoring, earning his team-high fifth goal at the 36:15 mark, chipping in a shot from the right side of the box following a juicy rebound. He also had a game-high four shots on frame.
Junior midfielder Evan Hudson capped off the night’s scoring, getting his first goal of the season with 24:52 remaining.
Richmond communicated well all game long, and was able to find the soft spots in Purnell Swett’s defense. Everything done tonight, according to both Howard and Jordan, was a precursor to Wednesday’s game, where Richmond will host long-time rival Pinecrest High School.
The Patriots (3-1-1, 1-0) are looking to avenge two losses suffered at the feet of the Raiders last season. But Howard is confident that his team can transfer Monday’s performance into their next game.
“Last year we were able to beat Pinecrest twice, which hadn’t happened in a long time,” Howard said. “But if we play like we did tonight (hitting targets, finding space), we will compete. It’ll be a physical game Wednesday, and I encourage our fans to come out and support us with positive vibes.”
Richmond’s junior varsity team had the night off Monday, and will return to play Pinecrest at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, followed by varsity at 7 p.m.
“Pinecrest is a great team,” Jordan added. “They play well together, and are very technical. I think we have a really good chance at beating them.”