Richmond Hill businessman, Carmelo Espino, has always been a strong supporter of his son Anthony Espino's athletic interests. Originally from Panama, Espino's tax preparation and accounting business previously provided funding and equipment for his son's baseball team. Today, he and his friends and business associates are proud sponsors of Anthony's Richmond Hill Soccer Club– the U-16 Raiders, also known as the “Rowdies”, where Espino also serves as an assistant coach.
“We are truly an international group,” Espino said. “We have players representing the U.S., Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The head coach, Martin Huambachano, is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army and originally from Peru and our strength and conditioning coach, Trevor Johnson, is from the U.S.A.”
This past fall, the RHSC U-16 raiders won 10 consecutive games in Georgia League play and won the Boys Elite Classic V Division Championship in December with a record of 10-0.
“This is a very unselfish team and the boys worked very hard,” Espino said. “Coach Huambachano did a great job but much of the credit also goes to coach Trevor Johnson who was in charge of conditioning and motivating the boys to give their best effort in every game.”
In spite of their youth, several of the players are members of local varsity soccer squads– Lazarus Gordon, Roderick O'Neal, and Jeremiah Felder for Liberty County in Hinesville; Eny Lopez and Malik Jonson in Richmond Hill; and Seymour Arteaga in Pooler.
Espino said one of their best players, Josiah Hernandez, has the opportunity to play before an international audience this spring. Hernandez, whose family came to the U.S. from Mexico, was the team's leading scorer with 16 goals in tournament play.
“Before joining the Rowdies, Josiah played youth soccer for Pachuca United in Greenville, South Carolina,” Espino said. “Josiah has been invited to join that team in March when they travel to Barcelona, Spain to compete in one of Europe's most-watched youth soccer tournaments. Pro scouts from all over the world will be there looking for undiscovered talent and this is a great opportunity for Josiah to shine.”
In addition to his team's winning performance, Espino is also very proud of the support his friends and business associates have provided off the field.
“We have very generous sponsors who have donated money to help our players with everything from club membership fees and uniform costs to paying the expenses for their hotel and meals when they had to play in Atlanta.”
Espino said Richmond Hill is also home to one of the state's best U-19 soccer clubs.
“The best of these kids who play on the younger teams end up playing for the RHSC U-19 club,” Espino said. “These players are so good that, in 2017, five or six from the U-19 team received college scholarships.”
This year the team will advance to U-17 league play and move up to Division III where the competition is expected to be even tougher. Espino said the coaches are looking to start a second team for players ages 13-16.
“If your ( kids) want to be part of a competitive team and are willing to train hard and play hard, we will offer the opportunity to compete against the best teams in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina,” Espino said. “For more information please contact me at email@example.com or 912-401-1554 or Coach Martin at 786-760-4036. We practice Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 9pm at the Devaul Henderson Park, 500 Veterans Memorial Parkway in Richmond Hill.”