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Staying Alive: No. 6 Raiders upset No. 3 Hoke County in SAC tournament quarterfinals

Junior Danny Jaimes (13) celebrates with teammates following his game-winning goal in Monday's SAC tournament match. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

RAEFORD — With its season on the line Monday, the Richmond Senior High School boys’ soccer team played with a little extra energy during the opening round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament.

Following in the volleyball team’s steps, the Raiders became the second program within a week to complete an upset victory.

Competing in a scrappy, back-and-forth affair, the No. 6 Raiders defeated No. 3 Hoke County 2-1.

Playing for the third time this season, all three matches have been decided by one goal. Richmond took the first meeting before eliminating the Bucks (12-8-1, 7-6-1 SAC) from the conference tournament.

Head coach Chris Larsen said he knew his team had the ability to earn the win and said he was pleased with the way the Raiders were able to possess the ball and make the necessary plays when they mattered most.

Facing some opposition early, sophomore goalkeeper Adrian Padron made a pair of saves in the fourth minute, stopping a free kick and then knocking the second-chance opportunity wide. He finished the game with six stops.

The Raiders controlled the offensive tempo early, with sophomore Noah Gil and senior Jullian Cline registering shots on frame. Richmond had three corner kicks in the 12th minute, but none ended in a goal.

Junior striker James Eason put the Raiders ahead 1-0 in the 19th minute as a result of a counterattack. 

Sophomore outside back Jeremiah Ritter started a run out of the defensive end, making a pass to fellow sophomore Landon Summerlin. Moving the ball up the left sideline, Summerlin found junior Jesus Castro. 

Taking the ball deep into the box, Castro split two defenders and slid the ball across to Eason in front of the net. Redirecting the grounder, Eason poked the ball into the net. 

Junior James Eason (18) scores his goal in the 19th minute. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

The Bucks answered in the 28th minute when Bryan Ramirez scored from close range to knot the score 1-1, which would carry into halftime. 

Richmond had 7 shots on frame in the opening 40 minutes, with the Bucks notching 10 shots. 

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Summerlin started the second half with a shot that trickled just left, and less than a minute later junior midfielder Danny Jaimes would score the eventual game-winning goal.

Again starting on a run out of the back, senior Tyler Berry moved across midfield and passed the ball to Summerlin. A series of tic-tac-toe passes between Summerlin and Eason moved the ball into the box, where Summerlin sent a pass to the back post for an assist.

Making the run down the right sideline was Jaimes, who was in perfect position inside the 6-yard box to blast the shot past goalkeeper Declan Callahan to make it a 2-1 lead in the 46th minute.

Eleven minutes later, the Raiders appeared to take a two-goal lead but the play was called off after the official said Callahan had possession of the ball before it was kicked in.

Padron made a series of saves in the middle part of the second half, and the Raiders got an advantage when a Hoke County player received a red card with 16:56 remaining in regulation. 

For the remainder of the game, Richmond played up a man, which Larsen credited as helping seal the deal.

The Raiders dialed up their defensive play in the final stretch, and Padron made a diving save against Ivan Rodriguez Baez in the 66th minute to maintain the lead.

Keeping the pressure on, Eason, Castro and Summerlin each recorded a shot in the closing six minutes.

With the clock winding inside of 15 seconds, senior center back Luke McCormick headed a throw-in by the Bucks, leading to Ritter booting the ball out of dangerous territory as the buzzer sounded.

Richmond (6-14-1, 5-8 SAC) will travel to No. 2 Pinecrest (10-6-2, 9-2-2 SAC) for the semifinal round of the conference tournament on Tuesday.

With the Raiders still fighting for a 4A East playoff bid, the game against the Patriots will begin at 7 p.m.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-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.