Mena, Arkansas – With their backs against the wall, the Rich Mountain Bucks (5-4-4 overall; 2-3-4) squared off with the NOC-Tonkawa Mavericks (4-10-3 overall; 3-5-2) Sunday afternoon. The task at hand was simple. The Bucks had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. A loss meant the season would end on Tuesday.
To start the first half, both teams were running off adrenaline and trying to figure out one another's game plans. The Bucks would strike first with two shots and a corner kick before Thomas Mullen blasted one from 45 yards out to give the Bucks the early lead. Mullen's shot was setup by Rodrigo de Castro. The Bucks and Mavericks then would go back and forth. Mullen would attempt 3 goals to the Mavericks 4. Two of the four Mavs shot would be denied by defender Caleb Summerfield and keeper Edward Garcia. After nearly 28 minutes of back and forth play, Mackenzie Crerie connected for the second Bucks' goal of the afternoon. Euwin Stevens found Crerie on the free kick by Josh Gounden. Two more Bucks shots would be unsuccessful going into halftime.
After controlling the first half, both teams would trade possessions and shots that were saved by both keepers in the first 9 minutes. Thomas Mullen would end that when he found the back of the net for his second goal of the afternoon. Daniel Perez made a sliding pass across to Mullen on a ball that looked to be going out of the end line. After the kickoff and a NOC shot attempt, Mullen looked to get the first hat trick of his college career. Both attempts were on frame, but a save by the Mavericks' keeper and a shot off the right post denied his opportunities. NOC countered with a shot that was saved by Edward Garcia that led to another Bucks' goal in the 67th minute. Daniel Perez fired one past the keeper to extend the Bucks lead, 4-0. Josh Gounden assisted Perez with the goal. Both teams would make substitutions to finish the match. Edward Garcia would record 3 more saves on the afternoon as both teams continued to trade shots. Just before the final whistle blew, Wandile Ngwenya found the foot of Bo Meyer. Meyer made the most of his opportunity and blasted another goal past the NOC keeper. The goal gave the Bucks a 5-0 win.
The Bucks outshot the Mavericks 17 to 12, with over 50% being on frame. On a great offensive afternoon, the Bucks also recorded 4 corners and 6 free kicks off of NOC fouls. The Bucks' defense and keeper Edward Garcia (6 saves) held on to a clean sheet on the afternoon.
The Bucks play again on Tuesday, October 29th, at Bearcat Stadium against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. The Bucks need to win, or at least draw with the Norsemen, to solidify a playoff berth.