LAURINBURG — It didn’t take long for it turn into a long night on the pitch for the Scotland boys soccer team.
Rival Richmond Senior took the field and scored 15 seconds into the game, setting the tone for a 7-1 win that extended the Scots’ losing streak to four games.
Richmond’s Brandon Morse quickly gained control of the ball after the opening kick and sprinted through the middle of Scotland’s defense before booting it passed goalkeeper Khalil McNair.
“We went from the national anthem to the kickoff, and I was walking back to sit down on the bench and I didn’t even see it. It was that quick,” Scotland coach Danny Gallagher said of the score. “When I turned around, I went, ‘No.’ But sure enough, it did happen.”
Though the Raiders got on the board first, they unable to gain control of the match until the latter stages of the first half. Scotland notched the equalizer goal when McKenzie White found an opening in Richmond’s back line and drilled a shot with 34:42 remaining before the break.
Gallagher said White should have had more opportunities to score, but Scotland’s midfielders were unable to get him the ball on several occasions.
“It’s getting someone in the middle who can get the ball and find McKenzie up there, because Richmond really didn’t have anyone who could contain him or keep up with him,” he said. “But it was always that last pass where we would under hit it or when it should have went outside it went inside, or when it should have went inside it went outside.”
Afterward White’s goal, Richmond entered a “lull,” according to head coach Bennie Howard.
“This team has a hard time scoring,” Howard said. “We do find the net every now and then, and tonight we were fortunate enough.”
The Raiders struck pay dirt when they scored four goals in the final 17 minutes of the first half. Carlos Alcocer opened the floodgates with a goal after McNair let a ball slip through his fingers while defending the left post. At the 6:41 mark, Morse added his second goal on a header off a free kick, then 40 seconds later Manual Zapata tacked on another score when he dribbled through two defenders and found the back of the net.
Zapata closed the half with his second goal after a series of passes were deflected inside the box before reaching the junior, who swiftly kicked it past a diving McNair.
“It just a lot of going through the motions in those little spells where they put the game out of reach,” Gallagher said of his players during the Raiders’ run.
In the second half, Scotland modified its strategy to limit Richmond’s offensive movement in the middle of the field.
“The second half was much better,” Gallagher said. “We packed the middle of the field and they did a much better job of going to win the ball.”
While the shift paid off defensively, the Scots’ offense suffered for it and they were never able to mount a consistent attack in the final 40 minutes.
Richmond added its final two scores with less than 20 minutes remaining in the match. Alcocer scored his second goal with 17:42 to go, then Zapata finished off his hat trick a few minutes later.
Howard said while his team didn’t play its best match, he is happy to leave Laurinburg with the win.
“It’s our arch-rival — if you can’t get fired up for this game you can’t get fired up for anything,” he said.
Richmond improved to 8-2 and 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference with the win while the loss dropped Scotland to 5-7 and 1-4 in conference play.
Scotland will play two more games this week at home. Purnell Swett visits Laurinburg today at 6 p.m., then the Scots will host Whiteville Thursday.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.