September 5, 2012
Already, it's started, the two-month quest of Section III boys soccer teams to not just hold the sectional banner early in November, but take it further into the month and end up in Middletown for the state final four.
Three schools got to Middletown in 2011, and Hamilton won it all (again) in Class D. Drew Thompson, Alex Brink, Sam Owens and Devin Askew are gone from that squad, but Brian Latella's Emerald Knights never seem to tail off, which must make all the challengers, from McGraw to Faith Heritage to Poland, worry a lot.
It's Tully that starts out as the reigning Class C champions, but to expect more after 15 (count 'em) seniors departed is a large task. Cooperstown has done a great job building a yearly contender on the shores of Otsego Lake, and you know that Don Ridall, he of the 500-plus wins, is going to have Manlius-Pebble Hill in the mix with a large returning class.
Could we be heading toward a Warrior clash in Class B? Clinton, whose state final four trip last fall was predicated, as always, on stifling defense, is like Tully in facing a lot of roster turnover.
Meanwhile, those other Warriors from Westhill bring back lots of stars, like Conor Powell, Luke Longo and Barak BenYehuda. Cortland arrives from Class A, adding to the depth of the field, with Skaneateles eager to regain its 2010 state title form, too.
Class A will really be fun since CBA and Fowler move into the neighborhood. ESM shocked everyone by going to the state semis last fall, and will still have plenty of defense and discipline, while J-D, whom the Spartans toppled from the throne, has designs on winning it, too.
Finally, there's Class AA, where for five years in a row Baldwinsville has found its way to the state tournament, sometimes winning a title game outright, sometimes surviving penalty kicks, and four times keeping F-M from going further.
Now most of the main contenders, the Bees included, had to face key departures - Alex Bono (now the goalie at SU) for B'ville, Tyler Forbes for F-M, Stefanos Stamulacatos (also at SU) for West Genesee. A lot of buzz is building for Liverpool, who has enjoyed impressive wins over Marcellus and Nottingham at the outset. And C-NS will factor in it, too.
A lot of teams were not mentioned here, of course, and as the season progresses some new stars, and new teams, are bound to enter the picture and alter it. The fun lies in finding out who they are.