HUDSON — Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, "Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts."
For Hudson head boys soccer coach Steve Knapp, that statement could be paraphrased in another somewhat sinister way.
Since success is not final, failure can be fatal.
Such a thought has been messing with Knapp’s mind quite often in recent weeks. And he’s a tad bit exasperated.
"They’ve had some success in the preseason," Knapp said. "but they just need to understand: That was the preseason. This is early and this means nothing right now. We’re gearing ourselves toward the final goal: the postseason."
That "final goal" will have to wait another two months. Part one of this potentially epic saga certainly had its moments, though.
Lots and lots of them, as a matter of fact.
The host Explorers dismissed their preseason fantasies in emphatic fashion with a 4-0 victory over Canton GlenOak Saturday at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Hudson didn’t necessarily need "the courage to continue," as Winnie eloquently put it. It was more about mastering a technique that goes back approximately 150 years ago.
Mind over matter.
"I liked the fact that they were focused," Knapp said. "That was the key. Getting them mentally checked in first was a success.
"Once we do that and everybody is on the same page, then good things happen. I do think we have some talent. Keeping them mentally ready and focused is the key."
Their mental readiness was evident moments after the ball was first kicked.
Senior midfielder/forward Skanda Moorthy, who missed the entire 2018 season with a knee injury, scored the first of his two goals a little more than six minutes into the game. Sophomore forward Sean Durkin was credited with the assist.
That was just the beginning.
A little more than halfway into the first half, senior center midfielder Jarrett Widdoes found the net off an assist from junior forward Pete Strawbridge.
Moorthy struck again early in the second half when the ball found his feet after an initial shot was knocked away by Golden Eagles’ goalkeeper Ryan Riccillo.
Junior midfielder Ben Hallis concluded the scoring with a little more than 17 minutes remaining in the game.
The stats told the story of the Explorers’ dominance. Hudson had a 16-4 advantage in shots on goal and an 8-1 edge in corner kicks. Explorers’ freshman goalkeeper Stephen Yerian made three saves as his talented offensive teammates kept the ball taped to their feet much of the way.
A number of Hudson’s possessions featured a certain elegance usually seen in the European Premier League. The Explorers demonstrated the art of one-touch passing at its finest. And it wasn’t unusual to see several of Hudson’s players touch the ball in one sequence.
These imaginative clinics are nothing new for Knapp. He has the pleasure of witnessing these artistic ballet classes over and over again.
"Our practice sessions are quick and everything is game-paced," Knapp said. "It lends itself to being able to do that in a game and we’re fortunate to have those types of players who are good on the ball, comfortable on the ball. They’re pretty dynamic in their technical ability."
These spirited passing exhibitions have been quite pleasing for Knapp to observe. Most of the time, at least.
There are situations when too much of a good thing can be … well, bad.
"Sometimes, we do get too caught up in those little one-touch, five-yard passes," Knapp said. "We just need to go. Go forward and make something dangerous quicker in the transition.
"We try to ping it around, which is really good to a point, but when we get into that attacking third, I think we need to do a better job of knowing to go at players."
For the most part, Hudson didn’t feel the least bit threatened. Nevertheless, the margin could have been a lot more lopsided.
The Explorers had a shot hit the post in the first half and a penalty kick collide with the pole midway through the second half.
GlenOak also got a brilliant game from Ricillo, who made numerous diving stops on shots from point-blank range.
Despite these minor issues, Knapp isn’t fretting.
All in all, his troops have separated fantasy from reality in their much-awaited season opener.
They also plan to continue their aesthetically pleasing style that values possession more than anything else.
Or, as 19th-century novelist Herman Melville once quipped: "It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."
Words of wisdom like these should never be taken for granted. The same goes for at least one part of the British Bulldog’s declaration.
"Success is not final."
"Don’t assume that because you step on a field, that you’re going to get a good result or you’re going to play well," Knapp said. "You have to be mentally checked in and humble and know the other team is a good team because our schedule is really tough."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.