Richmond weathered Mother Nature and arch-rival New Castle in the first round of the Class 2A boys soccer sectional Monday night.
Mother Nature won the battle, pelting the turf at Rushville High School with rain and wind. But the Red Devils won the war, taking down the Trojans 2-1 and advancing to the second round of the tournament.
Josh Anderson scored both Richmond goals, one in each half, and Drew Barrett stood tall in goal, stopping all but one New Castle shot on a night more suitable for an in-home movie by a roaring fire.
The victory avenged the Red Devils’ only North Central Conference loss of the season, 3-1 to New Castle in mid-September. More importantly, it set up a 7 p.m. Wednesday semifinal with host Rushville with a berth in the sectional championship game Saturday on the line.
New Castle, which shared the NCC title with Richmond and Marion, saw its season end.
“To me the most important thing was stirring things up and scoring some goals so we could win our game,” Anderson said.
Stir things up he did. After New Castle dominated in Richmond’s end for most of the first half, Anderson got loose on the right side just inside the 11-minute mark, collected himself and ripped a laser off the goalkeeper’s fingers for a 1-0 lead, sending the throng of RHS fans — many who made the one-hour trip by school bus — into a frenzy.
Barrett made a huge rolling save with 18 seconds to play before halftime and the Red Devils kept the lead at half.
The skies opened again at the start of the second half, throwing down buckets of rain over the final 40 minutes. But the Red Devils refused to let the torrents douse their drive.
With just more than 10 minutes gone in the half, Joel Okafor crossed a ball into the penalty box. Anderson dizzied two defenders and powered a low shot into the corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
“Josh chose a great time to pick up where he left off by scoring two goals tonight,” said RHS coach Sam Byrd. “As a team I thought we did well by defending our own goal area in the air.”
The lead stood up as Barrett kept blanking the Trojans with his defense of Mitchell Ahaus, Matt Sheridan, Nathan Guth and Andy Stevens cleaning up the messes. New Castle finally scored inside three minutes to play on a rebound goal, but the Red Devils played keep away and killed the clock.
They are two games from a sectional title and a berth in the regional. Connersville and Franklin County square off at 5 p.m. Wednesday, followed by Richmond vs. Rushville. The winners meet for the title at 7 p.m. Saturday at Rushville. RHS is a defending sectional champion.