Finding a way to beat Severna Park hasn't been the most daunting task for opposing teams nowadays.
Just scoring against the Falcons has been the real challenge.
North County didn't have a solution yesterday, becoming the seventh team in a row to be shut out by No. 5 Severna Park in a
5-0 loss on its home field.
"They work so well together," said North County's first-year coach, Mike St. Martin. "They have a full team, with a lot of depth. And they have a lot of talent."
The Knights are experiencing enough problems without going up against the county's hottest team. They are 0-3-1 in their last four games, making their 3-0 start seem like an illusion.
"We only have a handful of guys returning from last year's team," said St. Martin. "I'm starting two sophomores and a freshman. The only thing we're lacking is leadership, especially once you start falling on hard times."
Falcons coach Don Gregg wouldn't know about such difficulties. His team is 10-1 and a winner of eight straight since a 3-2 loss to Calvert Hall on Sept. 24.
It owns eight shutouts, but defense is only half the story.
Yesterday, senior midfielder Kelley Harris scored twice in the first half and once early in the second, giving him eight goals to go with six assists. His first goal came off a header from senior Jim Himes at 19:57, and the second came on a shot that glanced off a North County defender at 28:37.
"I think he's the top player in the county," Gregg said. "He's first-team All-State, if not All-South. He deserves to be up there with the big boys."
Himes, a transfer from Annapolis Area Christian School, has proved he can play at any level. He is tied with Harris for the team lead in points with 14, and yesterday just missed sneaking a couple of shots past Knights goalkeeper Matt Collins.
Sophomore Jim Traylor scored Severna Park's fourth goal at 7:30 of the second half. Junior Joe Laque later put in a crossing pass from senior Chad DeRosa.
North County had a few chances in the first half, but usually the ball was redirected by Severna Park fullbacks Jonathan Holleran and Jamie Maitland, stopper Pat Wren or sweeper Eric Lenfest. But in one instance, with about 5:30 remaining, senior Chris Rippel made a spectacular save on a close shot by senior Peter Merrill.
"They're all doing a superlative job," Gregg said. "There were some great saves to preserve the shutout. Lenfest has done a nice job playing sweeper for the first time, Maitland had a nice game and Holleran plays his usual solid game. It's nice to see the kids come through."
At halftime, Gregg replaced Rippel with junior Evan Henry, who prevented a goal with a sprawling save, then had to leave the game after being kicked above the left eye. Gregg removed many of his other starters, or put them in different positions, after Traylor's goal.
North Harford 1, Fallston 0
Midfielder Keith Smith scored with five minutes left in the first half, and North Harford's defense made it stand up as the Hawks knocked off the area's co-No. 1 team in a matchup of squads with 8-0-1 records.
The Hawks ended Fallston's run of 29-0-4 against Harford County teams, a record that started in 1990. The Cougars outshot North Harford, 20-7, but its defense was such that
goalkeeper David Zorn did not have to make any difficult saves.