The Schalmont boys soccer team built its 2009 reputation on its defense.
The Sabres will be counting on that unit as they begin their quest for a Section II, Class B title Thursday when they host No. 14 Stillwater in a first-round game.
Most of the [Sectional] games aren't going to be blowouts, said Schalmont coach Jason Beck. "The team that wins will be the one that works the hardest."
The third-seeded Sabres (12-2 league, 12-4 overall) had one of the stingiest defenses in the Colonial Council. They shut out seven league opponents and allowed only 11 goals in 12 games, which helped them win their second consecutive Colonial Council title.
"We've been able to play solid defensively," said Beck. "Any time you can hold a team under a goal a game, you're doing really well."
The question for Schalmont will be whether its offense can avoid the streakiness that plagued it at times. The Sabres scored only three goals in their first four games, but they closed out the season by outscoring their final five opponents 18-4.
"The group of kids I've had this year have worked very hard [on offense], and they have to do that to have success in this tournament," said Beck.
Schalmont is facing a different group of teams in this year's playoffs after playing at the Class A level for the last several years. Instead of traditional Sectional rivals as Mohonasen, Scotia-Glenville and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, the Sabres will face the likes of Tamarac and Broadalbin-Perth " teams from mid-sized conferences similar to the Colonial Council.
"There's some really strong schools," said Beck. "Broadalbin-Perth is really strong, Tamarac from the Wasaren League is really strong and Cairo-Durham is going to be very highly ranked."
The winner of Thursday's opening round game between Schalmont and Stillwater plays either No. 11 Mechanicville or No. 6 Cohoes in Saturday's quarterfinal round.