ROCKINGHAM — The Raiders are back above .500 in conference play.
After opening its first season in the Sandhills Athletic Conference with a mercy-rule victory over Purnell Swett, the Richmond boys soccer team dropped back-to-back games to Pinecrest and Jack Britt and fell to 1-2 in the conference.
Monday’s win over Seventy-First, however, along with their win over Lumberton last week, got the Raiders back into familiar territory. Two goals each from seniors Victor Lucero and Jonathan Tadlock helped them grab a 5-1 victory — their third SAC win this season.
“This win makes me feel good,” head coach Bennie Howard said. “If we can continue to put some wins together, and put some pressure on some people, who knows what’s going to happen?”
Howard wasn’t too pleased with how the team started the game Monday, as it gave up a score in the first 30 seconds of play, but applauded how the players didn’t allow the early mistake to define the game.
Junior striker Alcocer — last season’s Conference Player of the Year — got Richmond (6-4, 3-2 SAC) on the board first and tied the game 1-1 with his seventh goal of the season. Following sophomore Noah Jordan’s shot, which was blocked by Seventy-First goalkeeper Hasani Anderson, Tadlock snuck one into the back of the net— his first goal of the game, inside the 13th minute.
There was another opportunity for Alcocer to score with 17:58 left in the first half, but his shot hit the top of the goal post and bounced out. Lucero would record the team’s third and final goal of the opening half, his first of the night, a litte more than a minute later to give the home team a 3-1 lead before halftime.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And we didn’t start off real well,” Howard said. “But we came back and tied it, and that kind of got the ball rolling. We started knocking it around, putting some through balls in and that opened them up.”
The second half of play featured more defense and more scoring from the Raiders, as they continued to hold Seventy-First (1-7, 1-3 SAC) without a goal and witnessed both Lucero and Tadlock add to their goal totals this season.
Lucero, a midfielder, recorded his sixth goal of the year just inside the 42nd minute — rebounding his own shot that was blocked and finding the back of the net shortly after. Tadlock, a striker, got his fifth goal of the season off an assist from Alcocer in the 51st minute.
Senior goalkeeper Marco Acosta had another solid outing, recording a number of saves that kept the Falcons off the board after their early score. Acosta made a big save with 7:30 left in the first half and then made a sliding save during the final 40 minutes — before junior goalie Jackson Haley came in to relieve him.
Sophomore striker Steven Morales had a chance to give the Raiders a five-goal lead, but his shot late in the second half sailed left.
“Everybody got to play tonight,” Howard added.
Richmond has its first meeting with conference rival Scotland on Wednesday (7 p.m.) and will look to continue its climb up the standings. The team’s final non-SAC match, which was scheduled for Thursday at Union Pines, has been cancelled.
It can now put all of its focus on the remaining nine regular-season games, all against conference opponents.
“I don’t think we can get to first (in conference) because I don’t think Pinecrest is going to fall off the earth,” Howard said. “But we can shoot for second. I think we’ve got a good shot at it if we play (the way we’re supposed to).”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.