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Emerald Knights beat Poland, win Class D title

One more time, the Hamilton boys soccer team would get a chance at knocking off Poland and in the process, lay claim to the Section III Class D championship.

And at long last, the Emerald Knights got it done, riding Matt Broedel's goal early in the second half to beat the top-seeded Tornadoes 1-0 in Saturday night's sectional final at Sauquoit Valley High School.

This marked Hamilton's first championship since 1997, and its fourth overall. Not only that, it denied Poland a fourth consecutive sectional crown, and avenged a lot of recent negative history.

In 2006, Poland beat Hamilton 2-1 in the sectional finals. A year later, the Tornadoes prevailed in the semifinal round 2-0. And Poland had prevailed in a 4-3 classic over the Emerald Knights on Oct. 14.

Less than three weeks later, the top two seeds in Class D were together once more. A large and loud Poland contingent would turn out, but they would not have much to cheer about.

Hamilton had a majority of the scoring chances in the first half, and though it remained 0-0, it had not let the Tornadoes dictate things -- and more importantly, its defense grew some confidence.

All that confidence would be needed after the breakthrough 1:12 into the second half. Nate Steward had taken a shot that looked to be going in the net, but Poland goalkeeper Justin Weakley made a superb save.

However, the ball went back out to the point and, charging in, Broedel poked the rebound shot into the net, putting the Emerald Knights in front.

From there, Hamilton had to hang on against a ferocious Poland charge. No matter what got in front of him, though, goalie Will Keever stopped it, finishing with 15 saves for the biggest shutout of his career.

To get this far, the Emerald Knights had to survive a tense semifinal against no. 6 seed Copenhagen, edging past the Gold Knights 2-1 at Henninger High School's Sunnycrest Field in Syracuse.

Dan Kraynak and Matt Broedel each landed goals for Hamilton to counteract the lone Copenhagen goal, netted by Ben Freeman.

As the newly-minted sectional champions, Hamilton will face Section IV champion South Kortright Saturday in the Class D regional finals at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta. The winner returns to Oneonta next weekend for the state final four.

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