Much of the Hamilton boys soccer team's 2006 season had been a magical ride, as it reached one peak after another.
Only one goal would remain elusive -- the Section III Class D championship, which the Emerald Knights sought after in last Saturday night's championship game at SUNY-Cortland, but could not grab.
Defending champion Poland made it two titles in a row, as the Tornadoes held off Hamilton's late charge to earn a 2-1 decision.
Hamilton last won a sectional title in 1998, when it took the Class C championship. Ironically, Poland earned the Class D crown that same year, and now they were in the same class, on the same field, seeking the same prize.
Usually, the Knights like to be the aggressor, but in the course of the first half, it mostly played defense as Poland patiently possessed the ball, but could not break through Hamilton's back wall.
All of that began to change 3:09 into the second half. Poland drew a corner kick, and Hamilton defended it back to that same corner. Ed Rosenburgh crossed again, and Cody Lawson banged the shot past goalie Kyle Mason.
As the game wore on, Hamilton became more aggressive, moving up defenders and midfielders to try and break up the shutout.
However, that allowed Poland to get more chances, too, and with 8:49 left, off a rebound, Rosenburgh banged home a goal to make it 2-0.
But Hamilton did not give up. It attacked hard and sliced the deficit in half when Nathan Broedel, off a feed from Nathan Steward, scored with 5:44 to play.
Through those waning moments, the Knights would get a fair share of looks, but Poland would hang on, advancing to the Class D regional finals this weekend at the Hall of Fame complex in Oneonta. The state final four will be held there, too.
To make the final, Hamilton had to take out no. 1 seed LaFargeville in last Wednesday's Class D semifinal at Henninger High School's Sunnycrest Field in Syracuse.
And the Emerald Knights did so, prevailing 2-0. It would turn out to be Hamilton's last victory in a 17-4-1 campaign.
Head coach Brian Latella will lose just five seniors from this roster, but they include Mason and Broedel. Still, the Emerald Knights are well-positioned to be a long-term title contender.