SOUTHERN PINES — Wednesday’s loss in the semifinal round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament more ended the Richmond boys soccer team’s season.
The Raiders entered the tournament as the conference’s No. 5 seed and needed to win it all in order to earn a spot in the NCHSAA State Playoffs. But they weren’t able to run the table, losing to No. 1 seed Pinecrest 3-1 on the road.
Pinecrest will face Jack Britt for the conference tournament championship on Thursday.
“We made a strong showing tonight,” head coach Bennie Howard said. “The boys followed the game plan to the tee. They did everything we asked them to do.”
Richmond (11-9-1) put an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball in the second-round matchup.
The plan worked for the first 34 minutes of the game, but the Patriots eventually found the back of the net after they initiated contact near the goal — no foul was called — and senior goalkeeper Marco Acosta missed on an opportunity to record a save.
Pinecrest (20-2-1) took a 2-0 lead right before halftime, thanks to a miscommunication between Acosta and Raider junior midfielder Evan Hudson, as Noah Edgerly stepped up and tapped the ball in. It went ahead 3-0 following a breakaway score from senior Christopher Everett in the 57th minute.
Nearly five minutes later, the Raiders finally scored their only goal of the game on a penalty kick courtesy of senior midfielder Victor Lucero — who racked up four goals in a win over Scotland last week.
“Victor’s been my PK specialist since he was a freshman,” Howard added.
Junior midfielder Carlos Alcocer got a few good looks at the goal, but the Pinecrest goalie made a save on the first one, and the other two went high and wide, respectively.
Wednesday’s season-ending loss marked the end of Howard’s 30-year career as the head coach of the boys soccer team, giving him a final record of 289-215-45. It wasn’t the way he would’ve like to go out, but he appreciates the time spent this year with what he called a “special group.”
“It’s bittersweet. Like I told the boys, all things must come to an end,” he said. “It’s time to give the reigns to someone else. I hold everybody dear to my heart. Always have and always will.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.