Fallston High School has not lost a boys soccer game to a Harford County opponent in three years, but it has had some close calls.
One of those was against North Harford two years ago, and the Hawks played the county champions tough again last year. Now, North Harford gets another chance against its rival -- at home this afternoon.
No. 5 Fallston (5-0 overall, 1-0 county) is its usual unbeaten self in the county, but so is North Harford (5-1, 2-0), and the Hawks have the potential to be streak-breakers.
For incentive, they need look no farther than Perry Hall's 4-1 conquest of Dulaney on Monday, ending a four-year Baltimore County winning streak by the Lions.
North Harford has shown improvement in each of Ed Zorn's three years as coach. Its record was 5-3-4 in 1990, 7-5 a year ago, and it comes into this game having lost only to No. 8 Oakland Mills in six starts.
"Yes, I think I can say I expected it," Zorn said. "We go to a play day at Oakland Mills, and they always want a game. Obviously, playing better teams helps us improve."
This was shown in the team's next game when it duplicated Fallston's 3-2 overtime victory over Hammond. North Harford led 2-1, was tied, then Keith Smith kicked in the winning goal three minutes into the first overtime.
Actually, before the season, Zorn knew he had a strong field team, but didn't know what would happen in goal.
His holdover keeper did not come back, and the only one he had was his son, David, a sophomore untested in varsity competition. The day school started, John Tittle a senior transfer from Harford Christian, showed up.
"The two split the position and have done a good job," Zorn said. "It could be a sticky situation, but each has handled it well."
His squad has outscored the opposition, 22-4, with two shutouts, compared with Fallston's figures of 18-6 and two shutouts for Jason Hunsinger. The Cougars' top gun is senior striker Shane Dougherty, an Olympic Development Team member, with 10 goals and four assists.
"Like any coach, I'm more concerned with how we'll play, but Fallston is a strong team. We're aware of that strength and will play accordingly. We'll try and neutralize Dougherty and see what happens."
North Harford is a senior-dominated team with excellent strength up the middle. Twins Kirk and Keith Chesla anchor the back line, Rob Ivy is a top sweeper, and Adam Wimer is one-half of a potent scoring duo. He is complemented by sophomore Keith Smith, as the two knocked in 12 goals in the first five games.
"No specific position deserves the credit so far," Wimer said before the team's 6-0 win at Joppatowne on Tuesday night. "It's trite, but it has been a team effort."
Kirk Chesla said: "Some of us have been together since rec ball, and that's five or six years. We're really comfortable with each other and play as a unit."
Then Wimer looked back. "Against Fallston two years ago, we were tied and we missed a penalty shot in overtime. Last year, they scored off a set play . . . and got a penalty kick in the last minute for 2-0."
Of this unit, he said: "We're a 'ground' team, with a good short-passing game. Oakland Mills had a hard time with us [2-1]."
Now, perhaps, it is North Harford's turn to give Fallston a hard time.