Some nights, it's your night – other nights, it's not.
Unfortunately for Windermere Prep, Saturday's SSAC title showdown with the undefeated Falcons was not one of those good nights as the Lakers fell in a tough 49-21 loss.
After the game distraught players took a knee around head coach Jacob Doss, as family stood by in support.
"You know there is nothing I can say to make this feel good," Doss said. "Kids want to quit these days and you see it often in sports all the time, and the one thing I'm so proud about with this team is there was no quit until the very end – we were not going to quit, we were not going to take a knee, and we were not going to go into that locker room without fighting to the very end."
The Lakers (10-1, 5-0) had to rely heavily all night on that outstanding perseverance, as the Falcons (11-0, 4-0) came out early with an overwhelming force.
After multiple rushing touchdowns from Falcons' quarterback Fred Billy and running back Chase Brown, the Lakers found themselves in a huge 28-0 hole with 4:20 left to go in the second quarter. The Lakers had a chance to put points on the board with a 28-yard field goal, but the ball sailed wide with 1:51 left in the first quarter.
It wasn't until the drive after Brown's last touchdown that the Lakers were finally able to put together a solid drive, which started with a big fourth-down conversion at the Lakers' own 45-yard line.
A few plays later would see quarterback Kai Patterson connect with Blake Stillwell on a 20-plus yard touchdown. The extra point would bring the score to 28-7 with 15 seconds to go, and would hold until the half.
"In any big games like this, mistakes are magnified and when you can't get over those mistakes, it really comes back to hurt you," Doss said. "If we could have scored a little more and not shot ourselves in the foot, we could have made it a little bit more competitive, but that's a good football team."
Turnovers were a rather big issue for the Lakers, as Patterson was picked off twice and a bad snap led to the Falcons recovering the ball inside the Lakers' 15-yard line. Each turnover resulted in a touchdown – in the case of the botched snap, Brown would find the end zone on a 13-yard reception making it 35-7 with 8:20 to go in the third quarter.
Despite the hole, the Lakers kept battling as they responded with a march down the field, which was capped off by a short quarterback keeper from Patterson. The Lakers pulled off a successful two-point conversion after the touchdown to cut the Falcons' lead to 35-15 with 5:31 to go.
After a successful defensive stand, the Lakers got the ball right back, once again storming downfield. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the Falcons' defense bowed up and crushed a fourth-down conversion attempt in the red zone.
On the next couple of drives the Falcons and Lakers would trade touchdowns, as Brown would storm is way in for another score making it 42-15, before the Lakers responded with a touchdown run from Khadry Jackson. The failed two-point conversion after the Lakers' touchdown would leave the score at 42-21 with 4:54 left in the game.
A failed onside kick later, and a fifth touchdown from Brown to make it 49-21, would seal up the game and hand the Falcons an SSAC championship.
It was a tough loss, to be sure, but Doss still kept his spirit high as he looked back on what was a nearly perfect season.
"It was probably the most fun teams I've ever gotten to coach," Doss said. "They have so much team speed and they spend so much time together in the locker room and the weight room – they're a really tight-knit group. It was just a fun year, we had a lot of fun with them and it stinks to lose it like this in our last game, but this is a really resilient group and I wish we could be with them for the next six months."