Monday, 01 March 2021 22:18

Set pieces key in Raiders' 5-2 win over Hoke County

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Luke Williams (22) and Noah Aiken (12) each scored two goals in Monday's win over Hoke County. Luke Williams (22) and Noah Aiken (12) each scored two goals in Monday's win over Hoke County. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

RAEFORD — A flurry of first-half goals helped the Richmond Raider soccer team earn a road win at Hoke County High School on Monday.

Completing the regular-season sweep of the Bucks, Richmond used two goals each from senior Noah Aiken and junior Luke Williams to defeat the Bucks 5-2.

Senior midfielder Hector Castro added a goal and two assists in the win, setting up two goals on corner kicks.

The Raiders would take a 2-0 lead in the opening 11 minutes, but allowed Hoke County to tie the game in the 15th minute. Digging in, Richmond’s defense wouldn’t allow another goal in what proved to be a physical match, and the offense carried a 4-2 lead into the break.

“We came out firing on all cylinders and it was a much different mindset compared to Saturday’s game,” head coach Chris Larsen said. “Every time we come to play Hoke on their home field it’s going to be a battle. We just came ready to play and luckily we were able to find the back of the net.

“The guys were determined and that showed with our ability to capitalize on goals,” he added. “Scoring on two different set pieces was also really good, and that’s the first time we’ve done that this season.”

Castro would put the Raiders up 1-0 in the 10th minute, using his left foot to bend a shot up and over goalkeeper Malachi Harris from 20 yards out. It was his fourth goal this season.

Exactly a minute following Castro’s goal, Aiken tallied his first goal of the game in the 11th minute. Taking a corner kick from the right side, Castro sent a pass into the box that found Aiken, who headed the ball to the far post past Harris.

“I was looking for the top left corner, but luckily my shot bent in over the keeper,” Castro said of his goal. “On the corners, I was able to play the ball to who I wanted to. I was aiming for Noah on the first one and Luke on the second one. 

“It’s a good feeling to see those kinds of goals scored,” he added. “Like Coach Larsen said, this win is just another step toward where we want to get.”

Hector Castro (19), who had a goal and two assists, makes a play on the ball during the first half.

Hoke County (5-5-1) was quick to answer, using goals from Joseph Buel and Julio Antinozzi in the 12th and 15th minutes to tie the game. Buel’s goal was a one-on-one run in the box, and Antonozzi hit a shot after Richmond failed to clear a corner kick.

Williams scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 17th minute and got help from teammates Cale Luckey and Cody Eason. On a counter attack, Luckey brought the ball across midfield and started a run down the right side.

He made a lead pass to Eason, who threaded the ball through two defenders to find Williams in the keeper’s box. Tapping it around Harris on the rush, Williams put the Raiders back on top 3-2.

Aiken gave the Raiders its second two-goal lead of the first half in the 26th minute. Playing a ball down the right side, Aiken used his head to settle the ball before crashing into the box. He made a tight-angled shot near the end line, which rifled through traffic and found the back post. It was his fifth goal of the season.

“Tonight was a lot different and that was the most goals we’ve scored in the first half this season,” Aiken said. “We are finally playing as a team and we’re willing to take chances. We’re enjoying this and it’s relieving to see our hard work getting put to good use.

“We came out with the mentality that we were the better team,” he continued. “We slipped up early letting (Hoke County) tie it up, but we used that as motivation to put three more in the back of the net.”

From that point on, into the break and the entire second half, the Raiders locked down on defense and controlled the game’s tempo.

“We didn’t change too much, I just told the guys to be mindful,” Larsen said. “I put it on them to not put as many pressing runs forward. When we were up two goals, we didn’t have to score another one, but it’s nice that we did. We played the odds and didn’t pack it in.”

Richmond’s final goal was scored in the 66th minute on a header from Williams. It was Castro who sent the pass in off the set piece from the right side, and Williams tallied his team-leading ninth goal of the season by poking the ball to the near post.

Down the stretch, senior outside back Bryan Stanback made a pair of kick saves along the goal mouth to keep Richmond up. Senior goalkeeper Jay Ammons also made a series of saves in the final 40 minutes, before junior keeper Ian Williams closed out the final 10 minutes.

Jay Ammons (99) makes a save late in the second half to preserve the win over Hoke County.

“Jay played really good tonight,” Larsen said. “He can make some crazy, ridiculous saves and tonight he caught everything that came his way when it mattered. He punched a couple of saves over the bar in the second half.

“Bryan also made a couple of nice clears off the line on corner kicks that could have made a difference in the game,” he closed. “This is what I was hoping to see out of our defense tonight.”

The Raiders (6-3-1) kept their playoff chances alive with the win, and will return to the pitch Wednesday for a crucial matchup with Lumberton High School (6-1-2). Richmond tied with the Pirates in a double overtime match in the teams’ first meeting.

Eason, Williams lead comeback win for JV Raiders

The junior varsity Raiders also earned a road win Monday, defeating Hoke County 3-2.

Freshman James Eason scored a pair of goals in the first half, erasing a deficit for Richmond both times, while fellow freshman Noah Williams recorded the game-winner in the second half.

In the 49th minute, Williams knocked in his fifth goal of the season on a deflection across the box. Sophomore Ayden Mabe put a shot of frame that was redirected to Williams, who was waiting along the back post.

Mabe was credited with the assist, increasing his team-leading tally to four helpers in seven games this season.

With his two goals, Eason improved his season total to eight goals, which leads the JV Raiders (5-2).

“We conceded the first goal, and James tied it up 10 minutes in,” head coach Tad Hamilton explained. “His second goal tied it at two goals late in the first half, and he was able to beat the keeper one-on-one breakaway.

“It’s great to get this win, especially with how strong and physical Hoke County played,” he added. “In the end, we managed to get the redemption win and I know the guys are happy.”

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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