WARREN - Following a season in which he led the state in scoring, Lakeview striker Colton Ainsley hadn't found his stride in 2013.
Ainsley missed much of the preseason because of a foot injury, and his form suffered to start the season, scoring one goal through four matches.
In Saturday's 6-0 rout of Warren G. Harding at Mollenkopf Stadium, Ainsley showed that he might be returning to his 2012 form, recording a hat-trick after 48 minutes.
"The last 20 minutes of our last game at Poland, we saw the 2012 version of Colton Ainsley start to make an appearance," Lakeview coach Nate Mailach said. "Once he shakes off the mental side of his foot injury, then the sky's the limit for this team. We'll get rolling once he gets rolling. We feed off of him - he puts the ball in the net, every one else can relax and do their jobs."
Two of his goals came off penalty kicks - the first in the 17th minute and the second in the 48th minute - and he beat Harding (1-2) goalkeeper Austin Vingle on both to the lower left corner of the net.
Those two goals sandwiched his goal in the 28th minute, which right midfielder Anthony Sember set up by drawing a defender to him on the right wing and centering the pass to the senior forward.
"It was pretty monumental," Ainsley said of his performance. "It's been a while since I stepped back up on the field. It was just getting my confidence back. I just like to work hard, and I think the effort shows."
Not only did Ainsley score two penalty kicks, but he also helped create them. He got into the box and forced Harding defenders to trip him up as the Raiders missed the ball inside the 18-yard box.
Mailach said he was happy too Ainsley playing aggressive and causing mayhem against an opposing team's defense again.
"I told him four years ago as a freshman that I don't care if he ever has an assist in his career - just take the ball and beat guys," Mailach said. "That's what he does every day in practice - just embarrasses the defense. When he's going full speed and taking guys on one-on-one or one-on-two, he's unstoppable, and everybody else knows that."
The Bulldogs (4-0-1) held a 3-0 lead going into the 59th minute, when a third penalty against Harding (1-2) was called. Raider defender Teddy Arthur was sent off with a double yellow card at that time, and that's when the match opened up for Lakeview, as the Bulldogs added two more goals from the run of play after that point.
Matt Pasternak fired a 21-yard strike off a Harding clearance that went into the left side of the net, and Sember scored the last one with 2 minutes remaining in the match.
"We played with a lot of confidence today," Mailach said. "We decided to come out and not play kickball like we did at Poland in the first half, and we passed the ball real well. Guys were moving away from the ball, so it was a total team effort tonight."
While Mailach was happy with his team's performance, Harding coach Tilden Tatebe was left disappointed by the Raiders, mostly with the yellow-card situation.
Harding recorded five yellow cards in the match, including the double given in the 59th minute after arguing the call on Steven Wilson, who seemed to get the ball but was called for another penalty. Four of the yellows came in the second half, when the Bulldogs had the match well in hand.
"I'm upset with my guys for all the yellow cards we got it, got into our heads," Tatebe said. "That to me is unacceptable. I will not tolerate that. You never going to get things in life that are going to go your way. Life's rough. I told those guys, 'It's never going to go your way all the time. You need to deal with it.' We didn't deal with it today.
"Hopefully, this is our worst game of the year. It better be because I don't want to see something like this again."