North Carroll coach Denny Snyder couldn't stop smiling or shaking his head. Junior forward Brandon Gilmore was speechless while many of his teammates kept whooping and hollering. Last night was truly a night of celebration for the North Carroll boys soccer team.
Gilmore registered a second-half hat trick as the Panthers stunned host Francis Scott Key, 3-1, last night. The victory snapped North Carroll's three-year losing streak against Carroll County opponents. The Panthers were winless overall last year and ended a 14-game losing streak by beating Westlake two weeks ago.
The Panthers had been the county's doormat in recent years, but Snyder - back after coaching the team in the mid-1990s and playing there while growing up - is trying to change that by working hard on fundamentals and defense. The work paid off as North Carroll (2-1-1, 1-0 county) shut down the Key attack in the final 30 minutes.
"I think the kids are starting to believe," Snyder said. "I give the kids all the credit in the world. They worked so hard."
Key (2-2, 0-2) appeared to be taking control after Jeremy Ziegler scored the game's first goal on a header that North Carroll goalie Dan Nott misjudged in the 30th minute.
But Gilmore came up with the game's big goal. Harden Tyler fired a direct kick to the right corner that Key goalie Matt Baile stopped. But the rebound bounced to Gilmore on the doorstep, and he easily scored to tie it 2:59 into the second half.
The Eagles used the speed of Ziegler, Brad Thompson and Ian Roles to create a bunch of scoring chances early in the second half, but Nott made some huge saves.
Snyder had made a tactical change that was starting to pay off around this time. He dropped an extra player back on defense and, suddenly, several Panthers were around the ball every time the Eagles came near the penalty box. North Carroll began getting the ball more often, which set up Gilmore's second goal, a header off a Scott Eskew corner kick in the 54th minute for a 2-1 lead.
Gilmore sealed the win in the game's final minute after Baile stopped a shot by Steven Bull, and the ball squirted to Gilmore for an empty-net goal.
"I was just in the right place at the right time [every] time," Gilmore said. "This really boosts our confidence."
Key coach Steve Smith was disappointed as his team played well at times but looked flat for long stretches.
"We just didn't come out strong enough," Smith said. "We also had some bad breaks. We've been having bad luck in the county."