From his first game to his last, Ross Beresford showed, again and again and again, that he was a special kind of soccer player.
His coach, Mark Sleggs, knew it right away.
"I had a feeling," he said a few years ago. "I had an inkling."
It was that confidence in Beresford's talent that led Sleggs to subject the then-freshman - in his first game no less - to one of the most pressure-packed situations possible on the soccer field.
But Beresford, as he would the rest of his four seasons with the Trojans, delivered, connecting on the game-winning penalty kick to send the 10th-seeded Trojans to an upset victory over No. 7, and rival, Olean in the 2009 playoffs.
It was some debut; it's been some career.
"His first goal was the deciding penalty kick in the playoffs against Olean," Sleggs recalled, "and that's where it all started.
"But I think this season was a culmination of all those other seasons, and given what he meant to the team, he saved the best for last."
The senior certainly had, statistically, the best season of his career and after earning a Division 2 second-team selection a year ago, he was named to the first team this season. Not only did he beat opposing netminders 15 times, but he also assisted teammates in finding the back of the net on 10 separate occasions on the way to recording a team-leading 40 points.
That type of balance (the ability to both score and facilitate) was, given their system of play, exactly what was required from a Trojans' center midfielder. It was his performance at the position, in fact, that made the team go - all the way to an unbeaten league record (10-0-1), a first Division 1 title since 2000 and an appearance in the Section 6 Class B-2 quarterfinals.
"(Our system) puts a high demand on the center midfielder," Sleggs explained. "You've got to have the skills and endurance to play there because it's so physical. If we had run a more traditional formation, we could maybe have gotten away with using a less-skilled player, so we were asking a lot of him, but he was the total package."
Taking little or no time off the field unless the result was well in hand early, Beresford excelled at feeding his teammates, and fellow prolific scorers, Tanner Hoose and Tristan Desnerck. And when the pass over the top wasn't available, Beresford could just as easily lace a shot from outside the 18 into the upper 90.
"I could tell in August that he was set to have a special year," Sleggs said, "But these types of seasons don't just happen. He invested a lot of time and effort into his game this summer, and he probably had one of the best shots from outside the area of anyone."
Among the many highlights this season for Beresford was his eventual game-winner at the 15-minute mark of the Trojans' contest with rival Fredonia in late September, which kicked off an 11-game winning streak; his hat trick and one assist showing against Cassadaga Valley; and, most importantly for the Southwestern faithful, a three-goal performance against Falconer that clinched the squad's league title and a much sought-after home playoff game.
"(I had been asked early in the season) if I thought Ross was the best player in the area," Sleggs said, "and I said, 'Well, I'll wait until I see everyone else before making a decision.
"Towards the end of the year I'd seen everyone from our area and I let (the person that asked me) know that I was ready to make the decision. I really felt that he was the best in our area, and just in terms of all-around play - defensively, offensively, passing - he was in my mind the complete player."
We agree, and for that he warranted selection as The Post-Journal's boys soccer player of the year.