Saturday, 27 February 2021 19:05

5 goal scorers lift Raiders past Purnell Swett in shutout win

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Senior Bradford Pittman moves downfield moments before netting his first goal of the season on Saturday against Purnell Swett. Senior Bradford Pittman moves downfield moments before netting his first goal of the season on Saturday against Purnell Swett. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — It took the Richmond Raider soccer team the first half to find its footing in Saturday’s Sandhills Athletic Conference match, but once it did, Richmond powered its way to victory.

Hosting Purnell Swett High School in a make-up Sandhills Athletic Conference contest from last week, the Raiders used four second-half goals to earn a 5-0 win.

The Rams had a limited roster available for the weekend matinee game, and played down a player the entire match. Zachary Hunt filled in at goalkeeper and stopped a barrage of Richmond’s season-high 24 shots on frame.

Using five different goal scorers, the Raiders improved to 5-3-1 on the season, while the Rams dropped to 1-8-1. 

It was also Richmond’s fourth shutout on defense this season. Senior keeper Jay Ammons played the first half, and junior Ian Williams minded the net in the second half. Both made one save.

“It was a good day to be out here playing, it was finally sunny and the field was in good condition,” head coach Chris Larsen said. “It took us a while to get started up today, but once we got locked in, the guys knocked it around pretty well.

“We had a lot of different goal scorers and that happened because we moved a lot of players around this afternoon,” he added. “It gave different guys the opportunity to score, and many of them were able to capitalize on it.”

Larsen explained that once Richmond secured a multiple-goal lead in the second half, he inserted more substitutions. He said he “values kids getting playing experience over kids scoring a bunch of goals.”

Richmond tallied 11 shots on frame against Hunt in the first half, including two each from senior Hector Castro and juniors Alex Medina, Pedro Molina and Cody Eason. 

Castro started a run just before the first-half mask break that resulted in a shot on net. On the ensuing clear by Hunt, Medina collected the ball and launched a shot from 30 yards out. The ball sailed over the outstretched hands of Hunt and under the crossbar to give Richmond a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.

That score would hold until halftime, and Larsen said the team returning to the way it’s comfortable playing soccer is what led to the four second-half tallies.

“The biggest thing is we got back to playing our game,” Larsen said. “At halftime I told them we’d gotten out of sync with what we’ve done the last handful of games. They responded by getting back in the swing of things, knocking the ball and maintaining possession.

“When we play our regular game, the goals will come because we’re playing in the right position,” he continued. “We didn’t have to force so many things in the second half.”

In the 52nd minute, the Rams committed a foul in the box during a corner kick. That afforded Richmond a penalty kick opportunity.

Senior Cale Luckey stepped to the line and went low and to his right, beating a sprawling Hunt to give the Raiders a 2-0 advantage.

“In the first half, we didn’t play to the best of our abilities,” Luckey explained. “But we had a talk with Coach Larsen and we came back as a team and were more efficient. 

“I hadn’t scored yet and I knew this was my opportunity,” he added. “I hadn’t missed a PK in practice so I went with my signature move to the right and powered it through. There wasn’t much to it.”

Senior Cale Luckey kicks his PK during the second half of Saturday’s win over Purnell Swett.

Five minutes later, senior center back Bradford Pittman showed off his footwork, bringing a ball across midfield and down into the 18-yard box. 

After weaving around a series of defenders, Pittman chipped the ball into the upper part of the net while falling down from five yards out. His first goal of the season gave the Raiders a 3-0 lead in the 57th minute.

“Earlier I had a run and I told myself the next time I was going to take it all the way to the goal,” Pittman explained. “I was in a perfect position to get around some guys, and I was able to get it up around the keeper as I was falling down.

“Our back line played well, and since Purnell Swett only had one forward, it was a lot easier,” he added of the defensive shutout. “We marked that one guy and prevented them from making any runs.”

The Raiders’ final two goals came 50 seconds apart thanks to junior Justin McDougald and senior Bryan Stanback. 

Junior Luke Williams played a through ball to McDougald in the box, who in turn lifted his shot past Hunt for his third goal of the season in the 72nd minute. Williams was credited with his second assist of the year.

Less than a minute later, Stanback, who normally holds down an outside back position, played up on the Raiders’ attack. Senior Jaxon Mabe delivered a pass to Stanback in the middle of the box, and he lasered a shot high over Hunt and under the crossbar for his first goal of the year.

It was Mabe’s second assist this season, and Stanback’s goal completed the checking off of the list that each of Richmond’s eight seniors scored at least one goal this year.

Senior Bryan Stanback (7) celebrates his goal with senior Jaxon Mabe, who assisted on the tally.

“I was glad to see some of the kids who haven’t played much that they’re listening and doing what they need to do,” Larsen said. “Some of them impressed me when they played and I’ll make a mental note for what we can do toward the end of season.

“Moving forward, if we get in position of being the team that is holding possession more than the other, today was a good game for learning how to adapt to doing that.”

With the NCHSAA 4A state playoffs still an attainable goal for the Raiders, the coming week will prove crucial for the team’s postseason chances. Richmond will travel to Hoke County High School on Monday and host Lumberton High School on Wednesday.

“This win was good for our morale because we have to bring our A game the next two games against Hoke County and Lumberton,” Pittman said. “We’ll need those wins in order to have a good shot at third place (in the conference standings).”

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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