Richmond duo signs with SAU

ROCKINGHAM — Andrew Balzer and Sergio Chaparro helped guide the Richmond Senior boys soccer team to a school-tying 16 wins last season.

The pair decided it would be a good thing to get the band together.

Balzer and Chaparro joined former Richmond teammates Johnny Juarez and Christian Padron by signing letters of intent to St. Andrews Friday afternoon. Juarez and Padron inked with the Laurinburg college in May.

“The main thing is I saw all my teammates were going there and that’s good,” Balzer said. “I like to play with them, we have this connection, us four. We will do some good stuff there and hopefully we will all connect there like we did here at Richmond and get a winning season going.”

Chaparro agreed with his former and future teammate.

“It was pretty much the same thing that Andrew said, I saw all my friends going there,” Chaparro said. “I saw another chance to stick with them and see how far we can get. I like to compete against my friends, that is what got my attention to go to St. Andrews.”

Chaparro will play for Richmond coach Bennie Howard one more time before moving on to St. Andrews. Howard selected Chaparro for the East team in the annual East-West All-Star game that is part of the coaches clinic in Greensboro.

“Sergio is a stickler for the game. There were several times he and I would sit at practice and discuss what we ought to do,” Howard said. “He was kind of like an on-field coach at times. We talked about changing something here or moving somebody there. I think his knowledge of the game will help him at the next level.”

Chaparro and Balzer join a St. Andrews program led by coach Stevan Hernandez.

The Knights finished 17-2-1 last season, which was the best record in school history. St. Andrews defeated Reinhardt 2-0 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference championship game to advance to the NAIA Nationals, where they defeated Thomas 2-0 to advance to the tournament’s round of 16. St. Andrews saw its run end against eventual national champion Davenport, falling 3-2 in overtime.

Hernandez was awarded the conference and regional coach of the year for pacing the Knights to regular season and conference tournament titles.

Chaparro became the first Richmond boys soccer player named to the all-state team last year. He scored a team-leading 21 goals and added five assists. Chaparro was a two-time all-Southeastern Conference selection and was named to the all-region squad.

“My expectations for my first year is to gather more knowledge, try to gather more gaming knowledge, try to get more physical and get more active,” Chaparro said. “I’m definitely going to try to get in the game. I’m not really scared, I’m just going out there and play my best. If I get bumped around and stuff, it’s not really going to bring me down. It will probably make me work harder and stuff.”

Balzer earned all-SEC honors after recording seven goals and tied for the team lead with eight assists.

“Andrew is a young man that has worked very hard these last four years to get to where he is at today,” Howard said. “He has taken a lot of time away from other things just to kick a soccer ball around to get better.”

Balzer isn’t too concerned about seeing a lot of playing time as a freshman. He knows there will be an adjustment period in the transition from high school to college.

“It will be a good experience for the first year to sit on the bench to see the players play,” Balzer said. “It will be a good learning experience to see people from England and all around the world play. It’s a good experience to see that type of level of play in front of you.

“My first year I was going to adjust to the game since the college level is completely different from high school. You’re not playing against 18-year-olds, you’re against 20, 22-year-olds. They are a whole lot bigger, so you have to adjust to the game a little bit. So my first year I was going to watch and just adjust.”

Balzer added it is good that future Raider players can see there are chances to get into college by playing soccer at the school.

“It would be good for younger players to notice us and that it’s easy to get into college, but you got to work hard,” Balzer said. “It would be good to see a lot more people go to college for soccer.”

Reach Richmond County Daily Journal managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.