Scoring two goals against Glen Burnie last Tuesday must have ignited a fire underneath North County's Mike Hoskins.
The junior speedster continued his scoring binge Friday, recording a hat trick against Old Mill, as the Knights blanked the visitors, 4-0, in a 4A boys soccer matchup at Leroy G. Carter Field.
North County's latest triumph upped its overall record to 6-0 (2-0 league), leaving it as the only undefeated squad in the entire county -- a fact that head coach Steve Malone knows too well.
"At the beginning of the season, we were the hunters. Now, it looks like were the hunted," said Malone.
"But so far, we've met every test put in front of us. We just have to keep doing what we've been doing all year, taking one game at a time. The guys have done a great job of staying focused. We've kept our emotional level very even."
Jody Haslip (the county's leading scorer with 12 goals) opened the scoring for the Knights less than five minutes into the game.
Hoskins (the Knights' second leading scorer with five goals) then began working his magic at the 37:43 mark of the first half. Using his superior quickness, Hoskins blew past defender Brian Kelly and sent a sharp-angled shot past the outstretched arms of goalie Brian Layman (seven saves).
Fullback Karl Wick set the goal up by booting the clearing pass 60 yards downfield.
"So far, we've been scoring any way we can. You can work on your short passing game all week, but the junk goals also count. On Mike's first goal, I had to ask Karl if he meant to kick the ball that far (to set up Hoskins' first goal) on purpose, he said 'yeah, I did.' I guess that shows that we'll take a goal anyway we can get it," said Malone.
Thirty-eight seconds later, Hoskins gathered in a loose ball 40 yards away from the goal, and proceeded to sprint past the Old Mill defense once again. He placed his right-footed shot in exactly the same left-hand corner, giving North County a 3-0 lead -- and total control of the game.
"I'll tell you, North County may very well be the best team in the whole county," said Old Mill coach Don Hobbs. "Not taking anything away from them, but when you have three out of four starting fullbacks out (Keith Blake injured his toe minutes into the game, Richard Franklin injured knee against Broadneck and Steve Smith injured arm) it can hurt.
"We were in the ball game for most of the second half, until those goals by Hoskins. He's just so fast, he just flew past the fastest guy on our team (Kelly). He's going to be one to watch," added Hobbs.
Malone said, "Mike's been working real hard, I'm happy for him. There aren't many players around that can do what he can do."
Hoskins completed his hat trick at the 57:36 mark, slipping a pass from senior forward Ed Zamacola past a mass of Old Mill defenders. Substitute keeper Mike Mullen kept the game from turning into a rout by making three brilliant saves during the game's waning moments.
The Patriots (3-3-1 overall, 1-3-1 league) managed to take only four shots during the entire game (compared to 22 by North County). Their best opportunity occurred late in the first half as senior striker Eric Bathras took a feed from Nick Badalian and rifled a shot from 15 yards away into a patch of North County defenders just inches in front of the goal.
"All we can do now is go home, lick our wounds, and see what we can do next week against Southern and Meade," said Hobbs.