Cougars turn in two hat tricks in 7-3 win over Eagles
Before the Friday night varsity boys soccer game between Kettle Run and Osbourn over on the Fauquier side of Nokesville, Eagles head coach Dave Larson knew his city team had a challenge on its hands against the rural squad playing at home in the woods to the east of Rogues Road.
"We talked about them being a smaller school and us being a biggest school," said Larson. "I told my boys, 'This team's going to be fired up and ready to go.'"
According to the 7 to 3 final in favor of the Cougars, his prediction came true.
Junior forward Evan Szklennik lit up Osbourn for four goals, including three in the first period, leading to a 4 to 1 halftime score.
His senior teammate Alex Hartman put away a hat trick of his own before the end of the night in his first game back after injury.
Meanwhile, the best Osbourn could offer came from forward Juan Martinez.
The sophomore might be just a hair over 5 feet tall while Szklennik and Hartman stand closer to 6-feet tall each.
Yet Martinez could out-dribble and out-run just about anyone on the field, as evidenced by his two goals at the bookends of the game.
He put the Eagles on the scoreboard first, forcing Kettle Run to recalibrate its attack and prevent more shots against senior goalie Neil Fanning.
"Our defense, they played strong but in the first 10 minutes, it was shaky," said Szklennik.
He took charge himself, responding with a goal at the 18:33 mark and then punched in another shot to give the Cougars what turned out to be a permanent lead.
Hartman and Szklennik traded goals before the end of the half before Hartman struck again just 1:45 into the second period.
Almost 11 minutes would tick off the game clock before senior forward Hector Miranda finally struck back for Osburn on a free kick.
Martinez deposited his second goal with 19:54 to go in the game by chipping in a bottom shelf roller from his right to his left, burying an assist from Harry Lopez in the back corner of the net along the south side of the field.
The sophomore noted after the game that after having some space in the first half, Kettle Run put "two (or) three people on me" in the second half.
"They're pretty fast. I'm not going to lie," he added.
Not to be outdone, Szklennik made a shot 5 minutes after Martinez's that the Kettle Run public address announcer could only describe as "impossible" inside of the press box.
The junior charged along the right side of the north field with a defender tracking him down until they came up right before the white chalk marking the boundary line.
"He was all over me," said Szklennik.
That left him with one option.
"I just blasted it right in," he said.
Szklennik's kick unleashed an arching ball that curved in front of the goal keeper, hit the far-away goal post on the left side of the net and careened back into the back right side, hitting the net and giving Kettle Run a 6 to 3 lead.
Hartman closed the game on another improbable shot, this one more based on attention to detail than by sheer will of foot like Szklennik.
Senior Daniel Ahn ran along the left side of the field past his own team's sidelines as he headed toward the north goal, drawing out a defender and goalkeeper.
He tapped a roller to his right that appeared aimed at the goal but looked like it might just miss the far right post.
Yet, from at least 10 yards out, Hartman dashed up field and chipped in the slow, dribbling shot-turned-assist over the goal line and into the net.
Hartman described the moment as a "lucky play at the right time."
At 0-5 on the season, Osbourn is fortunate in one regard: the Eagles' district schedule doesn't start up until after spring break.
After tangling with Freedom (Woodbridge) on April 2, Osbourn plays exclusively Cedar Run District games from April 5 against Broad Run to May 7 versus Stonewall Jackson.
What that means for the Eagles is that they've still got another week to shake off the rust and figure out how to handle what should be a competitive schedule.
"Our guys are here to play," said Larson, noting that his team trailed most of the game but still hung tough.
"They didn't quit. We played some of our best soccer," he added.
Meanwhile, Kettle Run enters spring break on cruise control.
Sporting a 3-0 record that includes two wins against Group AAA teams, the Group AA Cougars return to action on April 2.
That games offers Kettle Run the chance to take out their third AAA school of the year over on the Prince William side of Nokesville against Patriot.
Sherando then comes to town April 5 before Kettle Run begins conference play April 12 at home against Brentsville District.
Aside from two games against John Handley, all of the Cougars' other games for the regular season from that point are against Evergreen District opponents.