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Monday, 08 March 2021 22:18

Raiders' Senior Night highlighted by mercy-rule win over Falcons

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Left to right: seniors Noah Aiken, Bradford Pittman,  Jaxon Mabe, Jay Ammons, Cale Luckey (front), River Meacham, Bryan Stanback and Hector Castro. Left to right: seniors Noah Aiken, Bradford Pittman, Jaxon Mabe, Jay Ammons, Cale Luckey (front), River Meacham, Bryan Stanback and Hector Castro. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Matching a season-high nine goals highlighted a mercy-rule win for the Richmond Raider soccer team Monday, but more importantly, it gave the team’s eight senior players something to remember.

Richmond played host to Seventy-First High School and earned a 9-0 win to honor its seniors on Senior Night. Eight players would find the back of the next, including seniors Noah Aiken, River Meacham and Bryan Stanback.

Those recognized before the game were Aiken, Meacham, Stanback, Jay Ammons, Hector Castro, Cale Luckey, Jaxon Mabe and Bradford Pittman. Players were escorted by family members under an arch of balloons before receiving a personalized soccer flag from head coach Chris Larsen.

The win over the Falcons proved to be the team’s fourth in a row, extending its season-long winning streak, while also keeping the Raiders cemented in third place of the Sandhills Athletic Conference standings.

The Raiders scored three first-half goals, including a game-high two tallies from Meacham, before breaking the game open in the second 40 minutes with six more goals. Richmond capped the mercy-rule victory, its second of the season over the Falcons, with 96 seconds left in regulation.

Seventy-First (1-12) allowed the Raiders to pick up a season-high 35 shots on net, including seven from junior Luke Williams and six shots from fellow junior Pedro Molina.

“There are seniors who have bought their time and this has been their year to step up and play. And many of them have,” Larsen said. “River, Noah and Bryan were able to score on Senior Night, and that’s something they’ll be able to remember forever.

“It’s a culmination of the year,” he added. “It’s good to go out and get a win on such a special night and hopefully we’ll use tonight to keep the ball rolling forward.”

Meacham scored the game’s opening tally in the 14th minute, followed by his second of the night and the team’s third in the 26th minute. In what proved to be the game-winning goal, Meacham’s first mark came on an assist from Alex Medina.

Playing the ball in the middle of the box, Medina spun and sent a pass to a charging Meacham along the right side. Taking a touch around a defender, Meacham laced the ball on frame, which deflected off goalkeeper Devlin Barrett’s hands and into the net.

Twelve minutes later, Meacham took the ball out of the back on a counter attack and raced the length of the field down the right side. Beating a defender into open space, Meacham chipped the ball high to the back post for his third goal of the season.

Senior River Meacham rips a shot on net for his second goal of the game in the Raiders’ 9-0 win.

In between Meacham’s goals, Aiken used quick feet to find twine in the 23rd minute. After a bouncing ball found its way into the box, Barrett attempted to pick it up, but Aiken played through the ball and regained possession.

With no one between him and the net, Aiken booted the ball into the goal for his seventh goal of the campaign.

“On both of my goals, I had open lanes and Alex played a really great ball to me on the first one,” Meacham explained. “When I saw I had the wide open run down the field on my second goal, I just ran with it and was able to put a nice shot past the keeper.

“It feels pretty good to be winning right now, but we know we have two more games this week where we have to keep this momentum up,” he added. “Our goal is to still make the playoffs.”

Ammons played the first half in net for Richmond before junior keeper Ian Williams played the second half.

Out of the break, the Raiders poured on the shots with 19 balls on frame in the second half. Williams was the first to find the net in the 56th minute, dribbling his way into the box before posting a shot high and over Barrett’s hands for his team-leading 11th goal of the season.

Just 55 seconds later, Medina made a steal on a Falcons counter rush and moved the ball to just outside the 18-yard box. Creating space, he ripped a shot from about 20 yards with his left foot.

The ball lasered toward the upper left 90 and pinged into the net in the 57th minute. It was Medina’s eighth tally of the season and his sixth mark in his last six games.

Leading 5-0, junior Justin McDougald entered the game and used an assist from fellow junior Cody Eason to add on to the Raiders’ lead in the 65th minute. Eason made a run down the right side of the field and crossed it to McDougald, who tapped it in from a couple yards out.

Richmond would record its final three goals in a 10-minute span. Stanback, who plays an outside back position, used his speed to bring a counter attack up from the left side in the 69th minute. Moving past a series of defenders, he angled a shot from 10 yards out for his second goal this year.

“My mindset is to use my speed when I get in situations where I can make a run,” Stanback explained. “If I can get it on goal, I’ll take a shot and tonight I was able to score.

“It’s really good to see how many shots we had on goal tonight,” he added. “We need to keep working on our footwork and getting more shots on frame. Their defense was physical and fast, but we were able to play a lot of good through balls.”

Senior Bryan Stanback hugs Jesus Castro following his goal in the 69th minute on Monday.

Freshman Jesus Castro kept Richmond’s scoring streak hot in the 77th minute, placing a well-timed header into the net on a corner kick. His older brother, Hector Castro, looped the ball in from the right side for the assist.

To cap the game’s scoring, Eason took a pass from Hector Castro in the final two minutes. Taking a touch, Eason went high and watched the ball sail into the net from 15 yards to end the game early. It was Castro’s second assist of the game and Eason’s first tally this winter.

After a slower start than the team wanted, Larsen said the Raiders (8-3-1) resorted back to playing their style of game in the second half and that allowed for momentum to build and the goals to start pouring in.

“When there’s a difference in skill level, our guys get out of character when we get in space and don’t have to play the ball so fast,” Larsen explained. “We forced some things early then let the ball do the work. We sat back and got back to our game.

“As long as we can win one of our next two games, we should mathematically be able to stay in the playoffs in terms of win percentage,” Larsen added. 

Richmond will wrap up its regular season with two more games this week, starting with a home match Wednesday against rival Scotland High School (3-8-1), a team it defeated 6-0 earlier this winter.

SAC leading Pinecrest High School (11-0) will visit the Raiders on Thursday to make up a rain out. Both games will begin at 7 p.m.

Kyle Pillar

Nine-time N.C. Press Association award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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