Just two games into the season, a defender was trying to get into the head of Aaron Horton.

Just two games into the season, a defender was trying to get into the head of Aaron Horton.

Wherever the senior forward for the Olentangy Orange High School boys soccer team went, a Mount Vernon defender told him just where he stood.

"This kid who was marking me kept telling me how terrible I was," Horton said. "I just let him talk. (After Horton scored two goals in a 3-0 win on Sept. 1), he got very quiet."

Horton laughs about it now. After months of speculation, he returned with a vengeance.

Horton sat out his junior season after transferring from Olentangy to Orange.

Before the Pioneers played Upper Arlington last Tuesday, Horton had 12 goals and two assists.

Orange was 7-1-1 overall.

Horton scored twice in a 9-3 win over Watkins Memorial on Sept. 22 and had a goal in a 7-0 win over Marysville on Sept. 24.

Putting Horton in with the pieces that were already in place took the Pioneers from a team that finished 10-4-4 overall after losing to Big Walnut 1-0 in a district semifinal last year to one of the top teams in Division I. The Pioneers were eighth in the state poll and second in the area poll Sept. 21.

"Aaron is a fun kid," said Scott Bryant, whose team was averaging 4.4 goals. "He has an amazing touch with the ball. His moves aren't super fancy but the ball always ends up on his foot when he's going toward the goal."

There have been rumors about Horton ever since he spent part of his sophomore year training with the U-17 national team in Bradenton, Fla., and they continued last year when he sat out.

Some theorized the Louisville signee was going to play football instead of soccer and that he was burned out with the game.

"Everyone always has to put their two cents worth in," Horton said. "But burned out on soccer? No way. I can never get enough of it. I wouldn't do what I do if I didn't love it."

Horton's love of the game was greatly influenced by his father Harold, an area club coach, and his uncle Tim, who played for the U.S. national team. Horton said as soon as he learned how to walk he was dribbling a soccer ball.

Horton totaled 19 goals and eight assists as a freshman at Olentangy. Braves coach Dave Sebek thought he had a state caliber team shaping up with the return of Horton and 2009 graduate Chad Barson -- until he got to the preseason rules interpretation meeting.

Sebek first got a call from Barson who said he was just offered a chance to train fulltime with the U.S. national team in Florida. Fifteen minutes later, his cell phone went off again. This time it was Harold Horton, who told Sebek his son also was invited to train with the team.

"I thought 'Boy, does this ever suck,' for about two seconds," Sebek said with a laugh. "But I realized this was a fantastic opportunity for them."

Horton said the time in Bradenton was demanding but helped him get recruited by Louisville. The senior's greatest memory was beating Brazil's U-17 team 2-0 in a Nike friendly.

"(Training in Bradenton) wore me out, I'm not going to lie, but you just roll with the punches and do what you have to do," Horton said. "I want to be a pro some day and that's what a pro's life is like.

"I took a lot away from that -- traveling, the teams you play, and (the experience of) playing for your country. It's an honor. All that has helped me to get to the place I am now."

Before the start of his junior year, Horton decided to transfer to Orange and had to sit out a year since he was still in the Olentangy school district. He spent the time away from high school soccer training and recovering from a broken fibula in his left leg.

"That was frustrating. I've never gone through a season where I couldn't play, but I trained all the time," Horton said. "It kind of worked out for the best because (with my injury), I wouldn't have been as effective."

Last summer, Horton switched from playing Ohio F.C. to playing for the Chicago Magic. The switch meant Horton spent every weekend traveling to wherever the Magic was playing, but it paid off with a third-place finish in a national tournament in Los Angeles.

The Magic lost to the Michigan Wolves 1-0 in a semifinal but defeated the Player Development Academy of New Jersey 2-0 in a consolation final. Horton scored four goals in four games and was second for the Golden Boot trophy, given to the tournament's top offensive player.

Although Horton hadn't played at the high school level for two years, he's had no trouble fitting in with Orange. The Pioneers returned plenty of firepower with senior Taylor Rieger, who had 14 goals and six assists last year and has 11 goals and six assists this season.

"I knew most of the guys and I was excited to be a part of this," Horton said. "We fit in together well."

"With the attitude and the hunger the guys had from the end of last year, I knew we'd have something special," Bryant said. "In every position on the field, we're dangerous and we try to attack from every position."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for Liberty, Olentangy and Orange boys and girls soccer teams:

LIBERTY BOYS

*Sept. 22 -- Defeated Westerville North 3-0

Last Saturday -- Game vs. Orange postponed. It has not been rescheduled.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Dublin Scioto

Saturday -- Home vs. Massillon Jackson

*Tuesday -- At Westerville Central

Of note: The Patriots were 6-1-2 overall and 3-1 in OCC-Cardinal before last Tuesday.

LIBERTY GIRLS

*Sept. 22 -- Def. Westerville North 2-1

Sept. 24 -- Def. Olentangy Orange 3-1. Kendall Kirchner scored twice and Cassie Coville added a goal.

*Last Tuesday -- Played Dublin Scioto

Saturday -- At New Albany

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Westerville Central

Oct. 8 -- At Thomas Worthington

Of note: The Patriots were 8-2 overall and 4-0 in OCC-Cardinal before last Tuesday.

OLENTANGY BOYS

Sept. 22 -- Lost to Dublin Jerome 2-1

Sept. 24 -- Tied Hilliard Bradley at 2

Last Saturday -- Tied St. Charles at 3. Kyle Culbertson scored twice and Matt Burgan added a goal.

Last Tuesday -- Played Westerville Central

Today -- At Hilliard Darby

Tuesday -- At Westerville South

Oct. 8 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian

Of note: The Braves were 1-4-3 overall and 0-3 in OCC-Cardinal before last Tuesday.

OLENTANGY GIRLS

*Sept. 22 -- Lost to Dublin Jerome 2-0

*Last Monday -- Played Marysville

*Last Tuesday -- Played Westerville Central

Saturday -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Westerville South

Oct. 8 -- At Big Walnut

Of note: The Braves were 3-5 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Monday.

*OCC-Cardinal game

ORANGE BOYS

*Sept. 22 -- Def. Watkins Memorial 9-3. Tyler Rieger, Aaron Horton and Jesus Villarroel scored twice.

Sept. 24 -- Def. Marysville 7-0. Ryan Young scored three goals.

Last Saturday -- Game at Liberty postponed. It has not been rescheduled.

Last Tuesday -- Played Upper Arlington

Today -- Home vs. Westerville Central

*Tuesday -- Home vs. Bradley

Of note: The Pioneers were 7-1-1 overall before last Tuesday and are 3-0-1 in OCC-Capital.

ORANGE GIRLS

*Sept. 22 -- Def. Watkins Memorial 2-0. Hana Abu-Kwiek scored both goals.

Sept. 24 -- Lost to Liberty 3-1. Mackenzie Schmidt scored.

Last Saturday -- Def. Marysville 1-0. Kristen Cunningham scored.

Last Tuesday -- Played Upper Arlington

Today -- At Westerville Central

*Tuesday -- At Hilliard Bradley

Oct. 8 -- Home vs. Ready

Of note: The Pioneers were 6-4 overall before last Tuesday and are 3-1 in the OCC-Capital.

*OCC-Capital game