Home Local Sports SEASON PREVIEW: Raiders seeking more ‘competitive’ edge this fall

SEASON PREVIEW: Raiders seeking more ‘competitive’ edge this fall

Members of the Raider soccer team celebrate after Jesus Castro's (7) goal in Tuesday's scrimmage. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — In less than a week, the Richmond boys’ soccer team will be the school’s first program to officially kick off the 2022 fall sports season.

Primed for another campaign, the Raiders and fifth-year head coach Chris Larsen have been hard at work throughout the summer in preparation.

Over the last two weeks, the team has intensified its focus to remain competitive in the 3A/4A Sandhills Athletic Conference.

Down 10 seniors who graduated last season, including All-Conference center back Cody Eason, the Raiders are a mix of several returning varsity contributors and a handful of newcomers, all of whom Larsen expects to make an impact.

Among those returning with significant playing time are seniors Ayden Mabe, Luke McCormick, Ethan McDonald and Jeremiah McLean, along with junior Jesus Castro. 

The rest of the 20-player roster will see an expanded role this season, with 11 players making the full time jump to varsity.

Despite the limited experience on paper, Larsen anticipates the Raiders to do well this fall, considering the amount of chemistry his players have shown so far.

“There are a couple of the returners who got a lot of minutes last year, and that’s going to be a good starting point,” Larsen said. “We did some good things last year, but just couldn’t get over the hump. We had some momentum in the middle of the season but then we got quarantined for two weeks.

“My hope is that the guys take what we did last year and realize that when we’re on the same page, everything works,” he continued. “Last year we had a lot of individual skills, but this season we’ll play together more as a team. The camaraderie is a lot farther along, and I’m hoping the team bonding will help us get more wins and be competitive.”

Head coach Chris Larsen speaks to the Raiders during halftime at a scrimmage on Tuesday. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Richmond went 4-14-1 last season with a 2-9-1 mark against SAC opponents. Finishing sixth in the standings, Richmond will be without three of its four top goal scorers from last season in Luke Williams, Alex Medina and Pedro Molina.

But this season, Larsen expects Richmond to have more scoring options by running a two-forward attack. Up top will be junior James Eason and sophomore Noah Gil, two players who played a handful of games for varsity last year.

While the Raiders will be using a revolving door of players at nearly every position, Larsen will use Castro, who scored four goals last year, and junior Danny Jaimes at center midfielder, along with senior Jullian Cline and sophomore Gonzalo Morales.

At outside midfielder, sophomore Landon Summerlin will use his left foot to hold down that side, while Mabe, Eason and junior Noah Williams will play on the right.

In the back, McCormick and McLean will bolster the defense at their familiar position of center back. Junior Diego Mendez will join them in the middle this fall. 

On the flanks, McLean and Mabe will see some action there, as well as senior Bryan Morales and sophomore Jeremiah Ritter.

In between the posts, McDonald and sophomore Adrian Padron are two options Larsen will have at his disposal to keep opponents out of the net.

Left to right: Ayden Mabe, Jeremiah McLean, Luke McCormick and Bryan Morales will be key players on Richmond’s defense. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

“I think the season we had last year is a big motivator moving into this year,” Larsen explained. “I preach that there are no days off, and the guys have to show up every night and play.

“I hope that the guys strive to do better and that we finish in the top three of the conference,” he added. “Our goal is to compete and play more games than what are scheduled.”

In order to achieve a top-three finish, the Raiders will have to climb the ladder and contend with Lee County and Pinecrest, which finished first and second, respectively. In third last fall was Southern Lee, followed by Hoke County and Union Pines. 

When asked what the keys are to make this season a success, Larsen said it boils down to managing the things the Raiders can control during every match.

“To be successful, we have to eliminate silly mistakes and we can’t help out our opponents by making mistakes in the back,” Larsen closed. “That also goes with not wasting opportunities to get the ball in the net.

“Every night the guys have to play a full 80 minutes and remain competitive. And if we stay positive, that can turn things around and lead to us scoring one more goal than our opponents.”

James Eason (18) and Noah Gil (9) will be part of the two-forward attack this fall, a new scheme for the Raiders. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

The Raiders will officially open their 21-match regular season on Monday at non-conference Lumberton High School.

VIDEO INTERVIEWS

Ayden Mabe, senior midfielder/defender

Jesus Castro, junior midfielder

Noah Gil, sophomore forward

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Chris Larsen, head coach

The Richmond Observer will continue its coverage of the Richmond varsity and junior varsity soccer teams this fall.

Below is the complete 2022 schedule for the Richmond boys’ soccer team. Home matches are bold and conference games are marked with an asterisk.

Aug. 15 @ Lumberton, 7 p.m.

Aug. 17 @ Montgomery Central, 6:30 p.m.

Aug. 18 @ Forest Hills, 4:30 p.m.

Aug. 22 vs. Independence, 7 p.m.

Aug. 24 vs. Purnell Swett, 6 p.m.

Aug. 29 vs. Uwharrie Charter, 6 p.m.

Aug. 31 @ Southern Lee, 6 p.m. *

Sept. 7 @ Pinecrest, 7 p.m. *

Sept. 8 vs. Piedmont, 6 p.m.

Sept. 12 vs. Hoke County, 7 p.m. *

Sept. 14 vs. Union Pines, 7 p.m. *

Sept. 19 @ Lee County, 7 p.m. *

Sept. 20 vs. Terry Sanford, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 vs. Northwood, 7 p.m.

Sept. 26 vs. Scotland, 7 p.m. *

Sept. 28 vs. Southern Lee, 7 p.m. *

Oct. 3 vs. Pinecrest, 7 p.m. *

Oct. 5 @ Hoke County, 7 p.m. *

Oct. 10 @ Union Pines, 7 p.m. *

Oct. 12 vs. Lee County, 7 p.m. *

Oct. 19 @ Scotland, 6 p.m.

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