Liberty's senior class remained on the field after coach Larry Luthe gave his post-game remarks.
Some wiped tears from their eyes, some hugged their coaches and fellow seniors. Coping with a season-ending loss is never easy, but there's something to be said about this group.
Despite a 48-7 trouncing against Middletown in a Class 2A West Region semifinal, the Lions exceeded expectations.
"This is the third season where we've had seven or more wins," Luthe said. "We want to get to where our full expectation is and if we're not in the playoffs, we're playing for a playoff spot every year. Hopefully the seniors set the table for that, they're a great group of kids. They're close and they love each other and it's going to leave a bitter taste but I'm very happy they were able to finish the game.
"They showed a lot of class and character in the second half, a lot of pride and character by not giving up and even the seniors that weren't in the game were rooting like hell for the underclassmen that were on the field and I thought it was fitting that Spencer Kirin scored our last touchdown."
Kirin, a senior running back, caught six passes for 74 yards, and his 13-yard touchdown connection with quarterback Nolan Karfonta was the Lions' lone score of the game, with 3:48 left to play.
The county champion Lions went down 48-0 at the break and senior quarterback Ben Agostino was picked off four times in the first half — two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Agostino finished with 59 yards on 10 passes — backup Karfonta went 4-for-5 on 66 yards and a touchdown.
Middletown senior Brandon Jones picked up nine carries for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
"Momentum is a funny thing," Luthe said. "They got it, and when things are going well and you start rolling you play a bit faster and I think the team that doesn't have that momentum plays a bit slower and that's what happened. We were a bit hesitant here and we doubted ourselves and lost our confidence a little bit."
Liberty (9-2) held Middletown scoreless through the second half in their first playoff berth since 2014. The Lions defeated Poolesville in the regional semifinals but lost to county foe South Carroll the following week.
The Lions are 0-9 all-time against Middletown.
For senior linemen Michael Phillips and Vince Ferraris, this season is one they will always remember.
"It's all about the heart and determination we have," Phillips said. "Even though the score was skewed, we kept playing until the last second."
"Middletown is a phenomenal team and we knew that coming in," Ferraris said. "We knew we had to play our best to keep up with them and at the end of the half when things weren't looking too good, coach brought us into the room and said the second half is all about pride. I think we brought that to the field and throughout the season our defense has been on lock, we've been an amazing team and I couldn't ask for anything better."
Middletown 14 34 0 0 — 48
Liberty 0 0 0 0 — 7
M-Brandon Jones 62 run (Max Salvadori kick)
M-Tyler Clemmer 34 interception return (Salvadori kick)
M-Jones 20 run (kick no good)
M-Jones 53 run (kick no good)
M-Chase Ganley 36 run (Salvador kick)
M-Cam Farrow 15 interception return (Salvadori kick)
M-Matt Evich 17 run (Salvadori kick)
L-Spencer Kirin 13 pass from Nolan Karfonta (Brett Dardzinski kick)
M-Brandon Jones 9-146, Reece Gentile 3-14, Aaron Derwin 3-3, Chase Ganley 2-45, Adam Bain 1-4, Mark Evich 2-6, Garrett Johnson 3-12, Matt Evich 1-17; L-Corey Luthe 6-26, Noah Rohrer 2-15, Spencer Kirin 4-3, Kevin Foster 2-24, Nolan Karfonta 1-12, Ryan Luthe 1-3, Blaine Roach 4-8, Ben Agostino 2-7.
M-Mark Evich 3-4-0 38; Matt Evich 2-2-0 23; L-Ben Agostino 10-29-4 59; Nolan Karfonta 4-5-0 66.
M-Brandon Jones 3-32, Chase Ganley 1-14, Andrew Wenner 1-15; L-Spencer Kirin 6-74, Braden Lee 2-20, Nick Lappotta 2-15, Noah Rohrer 1-7, Tyler Bowling 1-5, Alec Pellicciotti 1-6.