Like any good boss, North County boys soccer coach Steve Malone understands the importance of rewarding one of his workers for a productive day's work.
So there stood Jody Haislip beside the Knights' bench yesterday, dousing himself with water while his teammates played out the remaining 18 minutes of a 5-0 win over visiting Southern.
The water was a necessity. The Bulldogs never did cool off the senior midfielder.
Haislip scored the Knights' first four goals, two on penalty kicks. He has seven goals in two games, both North County victories.
"The team is working with me very well," Haislip said. "It's better than what I thought it would be during the preseason games. We've progressed really well."
Haislip felt he needed to step forward and assert himself offensively after the Knights lost Shawn Moyer (broken arm) and Mike Hoskins (ineligible).
Malone is grateful that he did.
"He's a winner. That's the best thing you can say about him. He's a smart player who's just as happy passing the ball as he is scoring," Malone said.
Haislip's work wasn't entirely finished upon his removal. He helped warm up backup goalkeeper Jeff Boyer, who entered the game in the waning minutes.
Haislip seems the most qualified at working a goalie. He certainly kept Southern's Matt Davidson busy throughout the breezy afternoon.
Davidson was called on to make 14 saves -- seven in each half -- before being replaced late in the game by Ryan Peaper. He had 16 saves earlier in the week in a 3-0 loss to Glen Burnie.
Yesterday, the most Davidson could do was keep the score respectable, as North County outshot the visitors, 33-4.
"North County is as good as we've played," said Southern coach Jonathan Braun, whose team is winless after three games. "Steve does a real nice job with them. They work hard and they deserved to win. They even could have had a few more (goals)."
Instead, Davidson lunged in every direction to deflect shots with his fingertips and, in most cases, his chest.
"This is his first year ever playing varsity soccer," Braun said of the junior keeper. "He does a good job of playing within his limitations. He's a hard worker. We just have to give him a little more help."
Despite controlling the ball from the outset, the Knights didn't score until 22 minutes had elapsed, when Haislip converted his first penalty kick.
Davidson made a diving stop of an Ed Zamacola shot seven minutes later, but Haislip was in position for the follow to give North County a two-goal lead.
Another Haislip penalty kick at 36:08 put the Knights ahead, 3-0, at halftime.
Malone figured it was only a matter of time before North County broke loose.
"We were starting to do a lot of the things we wanted to do," he said.
Like getting the ball to Haislip, who fielded a pass from Dae Sik Ham midway through the second half and beat Davidson for a 4-0 North County lead.
Knights freshman Chris Cosentino added a goal with 45 seconds left, off an assist from Mike Owens.
"When we go up against a team like North County, we're trying to keep it close so anything can happen," Braun said. "They didn't allow us to do that."
Malone said, "I thought we were a better team than they were, which doesn't take anything away from them. In most games, one team is better than the other."
In this case, the better team was North County. The best player was Jody Haislip.