CHESTERTOWN - The North Warren Boys Soccer team has a tradition of beating the odds - achieving goals beyond expectations - and the reason goes beyond athletic skill and school pride.
It's based on relentless practice and shared objectives of the players. Their legacy is exemplified by the 2007 team, which swept the Adirondack League and took their school to the Sectional finals.
The Cougar 2010 soccer team has been cruising through the first half of their season, staying among the top teams in their league despite the obstacle of a low school enrollment.
At their practices, the team demonstrates how they maintain their edge - they take the conditioning and drills seriously, and listen carefully and respond to Coach Jason Humiston's directions.
Humiston knows how to win. He played soccer in both high school at Argyle and at the University of South Carolina. While at high school -Humiston graduated in 1993 - he would score 30 goals per season, and in his senior year, he was the scoring leader in the region.
Humiston, who approaches athletics like a combat lieutenant, has high expectations from his players.
He works them hard.
His drills and conditioning sessions are intense.
When he wants to make a point on field play, he puts down his clip board and charges around the field, slamming the ball around players, and the team members respect it.
Humiston, however, defers credit to his players. The 2010 squad is heavy with seniors who've been playing Varsity for two or three years.
"We're solid in every position, we've got good team speed, and the players are finding the net more this year," he said.
As of Wednesday, the Cougars were 5-2-1 overall, having won some critical games against some larger schools with a deep talent pool.
For much of the season, North Warren team has been sitting at or near the top of the Western Division of the Adirondack League, a testament to the players' hard work and focus.
Key players include lead scorer Joe Aiken, who performs well under pressure; Greg Dower, who's stepped up this year into the limelight in scoring, plus Thom Pereau and Bryan Beckler who have made some critical goals and assists lately. Then there's the strong Benn Frasier, a vital element of the backfield backfield who's stepped up with aggressive play this year anchoring the defense, and the athletic, talented goalie Kristian Seeley who's been keeping opponent's scores low.
The 2010 team has been focusing on short passing control and attacking the wings with speed to catch opponents off-guard, Humiston said, adding that the players have set high expectations for themselves.
"We came into this season expecting to win all our games," Humiston said. "We want first place this year, and that's our goal."
With the considerable talent and strong programs in the Adirondack League, that goal presents a formidable challenge, he said.
"We have a team that can beat anybody on a good day, but in order to beat the 'big dogs,' we have to play better," he said. "We have our work cut out for us."