In spite of leading Harford County boys soccer teams in scoring the past two seasons, Aaron Szager of Joppatowne has done so in relative obscurity.
While the athletes from bigger schools in the county have grabbed the headlines, Szager quietly has emerged as the league's premier scorer and his numbers speak loudly.
At week's end, his 22 goals and three assists (among the top 10 in the metro area) earned him a second straight regular-season scoring title and followed a junior season in which he scored 18 goals and four assists.
"Sometimes playing at a smaller school you don't get the recognition," said Szager, a four-year starter. "But basically I just go out and do what I have to do. I'd rather let my ability show what kind of player I am."
And Szager has more then done so. He is the type of player who can carry a team offensively, and it is no coincidence that as Szager has come of age, so have the Mariners (7-5, 3-4).
His 40 goals over the past two seasons accounted for more than half of the team's 68-goal offense, and Joppatowne has finished with back-to-back winning seasons.
The Mariners have a bye in the first round of the Class 1A North Region playoffs.
"It's gotten easier for me every year, I've become stronger and a better offensive player," Szager said. "My ball control has improved and so has my quickness."
Said first-year head coach Lance Thompson: "Early on in the season, he did have to create scoring opportunities on his own. But with the addition of [Brian] Powell up front, from sweeper, to get a little more scoring punch, it has opened the gates for Aaron because he now has somebody else feeding him the ball quicker."
Szager's breakthrough season a year ago has drawn more attention toward him this year from opposing defenses. Despite often being double-teamed, he managed six multi-goal games -- four for a hat trick or better -- and saw several one-on-one situations, at which he was nearly unbeatable. Of the county's top four teams (C. Milton Wright, Fallston, North Harford, Bel Air) only Bel Air kept Szager scoreless.
"Scoring has been pushed to me a little more but I've been practicing and working harder," said Szager, who has been scouted by Towson, Salisbury State and Frostburg State.
"When you play somebody big you've got to be able to put the ball in the net and he's done that," said Thompson.
Szager's superb footwork makes up for his average speed and his knack for going to the goal is enhanced by a tremendous shot. Above all, it's his determination that makes him a strong finisher.
Szager also isn't lacking experience. He has been playing since he was 6 years old and been active in club leagues for several years now, including a roster spot on the Baltimore Football Club.
"For my money he is the best player in the county this year," said Thompson. "He's got a dynamite shot with either foot and he's on goal all the time and that's his job on this team.
"He's a very determined player and wants to play at the next level and I really pushed him this year to get to the next level beings I played in college and know what it takes to get there."