Home Local Sports Second-half comeback lifts Raiders over Hoke County

Second-half comeback lifts Raiders over Hoke County

Sophomore goalkeeper Adrian Padron makes a diving stop on a corner kick in the first half of Monday's win. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — After suffering a pair of one-goal losses last week, the Richmond Raider soccer team got over the hump on Monday.

The Raiders’ fight was rewarded with a 2-1 comeback victory over Hoke County High School, one of two other 4A schools in the Sandhills Athletic Conference.

Head coach Chris Larsen noted the Raiders have continued to “battle hard” in closely contested games and that the win over the Bucks (4-4, 1-1 SAC) was the result of “playing a full 80 minutes.”

Hoke County got on the board first in the ninth minute, the result of a strike by Kenautica Billinger on a rush.

Not deterred by the early deficit, the Raiders relied on sophomore goalkeeper Adrian Padron and the back line to keep the Bucks out of the net for the final 71 minutes of play.

Junior center back Diego Mendez started the defensive stand with a kick save in the keeper’s box less than a minute after Billinger’s goal. 

Adding depth along the back line throughout the match were seniors Ayden Mabe, Luke McCormick, Jeremiah McLean, along with junior Danny Jaimes and sophomore Jeremiah Ritter.

Padron swatted away a shot attempt by Johnathan Pena in the 12th minute, one of his seven saves in the match. He made two more timely saves in the first half — one on a free kick and a leaping catch on a corner kick.

Netting the equalizer in the 35th minute, junior striker James Eason took advantage of a counter attack. Junior midfielder Jesus Castro started a run up the left sideline before feeding the ball to Eason on the far wing.

Taking a touch, Eason charged into the 18-yard box and deked a defender to open up space. From 10 yards, he launched a low shot that sailed past the keeper along the back post.

Padron made a diving save to his left on an offering from Bryan Ramirez in the closing minutes of the first half. The score would hold at 1-1 at the intermission.

Junior James Eason slots the first of his two goals during Richmond’s win over Hoke County. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

In the second half, Richmond’s defense set the tempo and Padron made three more quality saves.

Eason scored the game-winning goal in the 58th minute, his team-leading sixth goal of the fall.

On a give-and-go with Jaimes, Eason took possession and broke loose between two defenders. Ripping a shot from 18 yards, Eason beat the keeper to the right side of the net.

In the closing 20 minutes, Larsen tightened Richmond’s defense to shut the Bucks out the rest of the way. Padron made another save on a high bouncing ball, scooping it up before Billinger could make a play.

Castro nearly added an insurance goal in the 78th minute, lacing a hard shot off the crossbar.

Jesus Castro (left), Luke McCormick (24) and Diego Mendez (25) work to clear a ball in the first half. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Richmond (3-5-1, 2-1 SAC) will look to add to its conference record with a home match against Union Pines High School on Wednesday. The Raiders and Vikings (2-5-1, 0-1 SAC) will start at 7 p.m.

JV Raiders lose close match to Hoke County

The Richmond junior varsity boys’ soccer team suffered a 2-1 loss to Hoke County on Monday.

Trailing 2-0 at the half, freshman Memphis Jacobs cut the deficit in half for the JV Raiders. Moving around two defenders, Jacobs challenged the keeper 1v1 before shooting the ball into the net.

“I’m pleased with our effort in the second half, but the boys need to learn to play a full 70 minutes and give 100 percent when on the field,” head coach Bennie Howard said. “Hopefully we learn something from this and have a good practice tomorrow to get ready for Union Pines.”

 The JV Raiders (1-3-2, 0-2 SAC) will look for their first conference win against the JV Vikings on Wednesday, starting at 5 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.