STERLING – Dusk hit Roscoe Eades Stadium on Saturday after the conclusion of Saturday’s 2A second-round playoff game between Newman and Eastland-Pearl City almost as fast as Jake Snow had reached the end zone 13 seconds into the game nearly 3 hours earlier.
By that point, a sparse congregation of players, parents and fans remained, as Eastland-Pearl City coach Randy Asche descended the steps of the stadium after a radio interview in the press box.
Once on the field, Asche was greeted by one of the few remaining players in senior Boden Brandt. The two embraced and, for a few final moments, they were player and coach after the Wildcatz’s season came to an end in a 35-12 loss to the Comets.
A week earlier, Brandt had been one of the players that said playing Newman in the playoffs had been the Wildcatz’s dream all season.
Saturday didn’t turn out to be such a dream. But, unlike previous games against Three Rivers North teams in the playoffs, it had less to do with a talent gap between the Wildcatz and the Comets.
No, on Saturday, the loss came down to two things, Asche said.
“It came down to discipline and poise,” he said. “They just had more of both. They have a lot of experience in games at this level. You can look at the first play, and that was huge.
“But, we had too many penalties. The one right before half was big, because it let them continue a drive. They scored there, and that was huge. We just haven’t been in those positions before.”
After two Newman possessions, the Wildcatz trailed 13-0. While the first two EPC drives showed promise, they didn’t equate to points.
“We didn’t play today like we should have,” Eastland-Pearl City junior fullback Eric Schaney said. “We learned what it takes. We worked hard to get to this point. Now, we have to work harder in the offseason to get back here next year.”
A long playoff run is the only thing missing from the Wildcatz’s proud football program. They’ve won the last two NUIC Northwest conference titles. They’ve gone undefeated during the regular season the last 2 years. They have been a perennial playoff team the last decade, but have only one quarterfinal appearance to show for it.
Seven times since 2000, the Wildcatz’s season has come to an end against a current Three Rivers North team.
“We had a great year,” said Asche, fighting back a tear. “You have to hand it to Newman. They put a lot of pressure on us to make plays on both sides of the ball. We did some things, but we have to do it every play. Newman is a great team, and the better team today. I hope that they go on and win it all.”
One of these years, Asche and his players hope it will be their turn to walk off the field happy, while the sun sets on some other team’s dream.