No real pressure on the Hamilton boys soccer team as the defense of its state Class D title got underway -- just knock off the opponent that, arguably, wants to beat them the most.
Somehow, the Emerald Knights pulled this off on Sept. 4, beating Poland 1-0 in a memorable season opener between two of the area's biggest soccer rivals.
Poland had most of the chances, yet still watched the team in green come out in front by the same margin as they did in the 2008 Section III Class D final.
Much had changed since Hamilton's storybook comeback from a three-goal deficit to beat Chazy 4-3 in overtime that secured the 2008 state Class D championship.
In fact, eight seniors -- Will Keever, Josh Sorosky, Matt Broedel, Alex Thompson, Brandon Meeks, Bobby Dick, Tyler White and Nate Steward -- had graduated, the sort of mass exodus that can mean trouble for any program, let alone a reigning state champion.
However, head coach Brian Latella has enough talent back for another title run, something that would manifest itself against Poland, who knocked the Emerald Knights out of the playoffs two straight years and won both regular-season meetings in '08 before Hamilton finally beat the Tornadoes in that sectional final.
One of those key returnees is Joe Taranto, now the Emerald Knights' sweeper. In this match against Poland, Taranto directed the defense, which got some scares away.
Twice in the first 12 minutes, Kinon Nolan-Finkel, Hamilton's new goalkeeper, made big stops, deflecting one hard-hit shot, then doing so again so a Tornadoes attempt crashed off the crossbar.
Instead of being down by one or two goals, Hamilton kept it 0-0 -- until the 27th minute. When a Poland defender came out to challenge Drew Thompson (and the other defenders were out of position), Thompson slid the ball past him into the net.