North Harford's football team is 1-8 this season, but opponents havelearned not to look for a typical 1-8 defense from the Hawks.
In recent weeks, the Hawks' defense has brought them to the brink of upsetting the county's second- and third-place teams.
Although the Hawks have given up an average of 21.3 points per game, they have allowed only 36 points over the last three weeks.
Thursday, the Hawks held Aberdeen to a field goal in the first half andto 10 points until the final 35 seconds when the Eagles scored a touchdown to finish off the Hawks, 17-6. The Eagles (6-1) average nearly25 points per game.
A week ago, the Hawks lost at Fallston, 12-6.But they piled up more yards in penalties than Fallston did in totaloffense. Two weeks ago, Joppatowne barely edged the Hawks, 7-0. The Mariners (5-2) are averaging nearly 20 points per game.
The defensive improvements are just the first step in rookie coach Lauren Lydic's plan to keep North Harford marching toward the top of the league. Last year, the Hawks ranked last in defense. Now, they have climbed to sixth in the nine-team league.
"We wanted to get to the point where no opponent walked onto the field thinking North Harford was a pushover. We were looking to get some respect, and I think we have," said Lydic.
"We've come a long way in the last five weeks with the exception of the John Carroll game ( a 34-6 loss). I can't say enough about our kids."
The key to the Hawks' defense has been veteran linebackers, Chris Kloss, Ted Eyler and Rob Kaun. All three rank among the county's top eight in tackles. Until a broken collarbone sidelined him a week ago, Kloss led the county in solo tackles.
Defensive end Art Boykin ranks 11th in the county in tackles. Ray Dalton and Dan Kaminkow at the defensive tackle positions, and nose guard Ryan Staub have also performed well on the line.
In addition, the Hawks have gotten strong efforts from first-year players Alan Umstead at linebacker and Jason Zeigler at end.
The offense hasn't come along nearly as quickly as the defense, but Lydic and offensive coordinator Vince Morisi expected that.
"Offense is the toughest thing to put inwhen you're putting in a whole new system," said Lydic. "North Harford had the No. 4 offense in the county last year, but we lost a lot of strong offensive players."
The Hawks have wasted a lot of their scoring opportunities. Against Joppatowne, they were inside the 20-yard line three times and came away empty handed. They had driven to the two-yard line when time expired.
Against Aberdeen, the Hawks again couldn't take the ball in from the 2-yard line in the third quarter. Rob Kaun finally scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a seven-yard pass from quarterback Mike Lynch.