First Posted: 10/22/2014
ROCKINGHAM — In tight games, the soccer ball seems to find the right foot of Richmond’s Jalen Almond.
In Richmond’s upset win over Pinecrest last week, Almond scored the opening goal off a loose ball in the box that bounced its way to his feet.
The same thing happened in Tuesday’s Southeastern Conference semifinal match between Richmond and Lumberton.
Armando Garcia had control of ball in the middle of the field when he was taken down just outside the penalty box by a Lumberton player. As Garcia fell to the ground, the ball trickled over to Almond.
The senior ripped a shot past Lumberton goalkeeper Nick Veneziano for the game-winning goal to give Richmond a 2-1 victory.
“The ball just happened to pop over to me and I knew I had to finish,” Almond said. “Armando got tripped, I was running next to him and the ball rolled to me.”
Lumberton coach Kenny Simmons praised the decision by referee Errol Daniels to let the play continue that resulted in his team’s elimination from the SEC tournament.
“That was a great job by the officials because a lot of officials would have whistled that foul, but he let that play develop and the Richmond player hit a rocket,” Simmons said. “Many high school referees wouldn’t have allowed that play to develop.”
The victory sends Richmond (16-1) to the SEC championship game 7 p.m. Thursday at Pinecrest, which stopped Scotland 6-1 in the other semifinal clash.
The Raiders and the Patriots split the season series. Pinecrest won the first meeting at Raider Stadium 4-1, Richmond responded with a 2-1 win at John Williams Stadium. Both teams are 9-1 in the SEC this season, but Pinecrest won the coin flip to determine the top seed in the conference tourney.
Despite watching his team tie a school mark in wins, Richmond coach Bennie Howard said the Raiders were lucky to advance to face the Patriots.
“I told the team after the game we were very fortunate,” Howard said. “Kenny had a great game plan and his players executed it. I thought we started picking it up with about 27 minutes left. I figured we were going to score, well, maybe I was just wishing it, but Jalen put one in there.”
Both teams scored on penalty kicks in the first half.
Richmond cracked the scoring column first when Alex Alvarado was pulled down by Lumberton’s Adrian Macias in the penalty area and Manuel Zapata converted the kick with 11:53 remaining until halftime.
The Pirates (13-8-1) tied it eight minutes later when Freddy Carrillo was fouled by Alex Lopez and Miguel Bello scored on the penalty kick.