Bob Mitchell had hoped his 308th and final game as Northwestern's head coach would end with his team hoisting the Eastern Conferene Class AAA trophy.
However, despite Beca's 13-0 win in Friday night's title game in New Tripoli, Mitchell walked off the field proud of his team and the effort it gave.
"When I saw the clock ticking down," he said. "And I knew it was going to be the last time I would be standing on a football field with my own football team, a sense of peace came over me because I think we did all that we could do. Sometimes the other squads a better team. We had our chances tonight and the thing that hurt us throughout the year, which was finishing drives, reared its again tonight. As a result of that it ended up the way it did."
Beca scored once early and once late and played very good defense in between to earn the win.
With the Hawks holding the 6-0 they took on the game's opening possession, Northwestern seemed to be winning the field position battle in the second half. Beca's first four possessions after halftime started at their own 27, 8, 10 and 27 thanks to the Tigers solid defense and booming Garrett Lerner punts.
With the Tigers running out of time in the fourth quarter, Kyle DeHaut came up with this team's third turnover of the game, an interception of a Trevor German pass. He caught it at his own 30-yard line and returned it 46 yards to the Northwestern 24.
Four plays later Beca scored on Martin LaLuz's 3-yard run to take a 13-0 lead with 1:41 left in the game.
"We got the ball finally on their side of the 50," said Bethlehem Catholic head coach Mike Palos. "We were able to punch it in. That was a huge score to go up two touchdowns."
The Hawks compiled just 133 yards of offense in the game, but their offense avoided mistakes while the defense held Northwestern's offense to just 165 total yards.
The Tigers had four drives end inside the Beca 25-yard line, but none ended with scores as they were shut out for the first time this season. Their best chance was a first-and-goal from the 8-yard line near the end of the third quarter. A first-down penalty pushed them back to the 13 and an interception two plays later ended the threat.
They also had one fumble and two failed fourth-down conversions inside the Beca 25.
"We kept shooting ourselves in the foot," Mitychell said. "When we struggle we're our own worst enemy."
Northwestern was forced to play from behind when Beca took the opening kick off and drove for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead with 7:25 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Luke Petro hit Joe Connell on the 33-yard touchdown pass.
From there the Bethlehem Catholic defense settle in, allowing a first down or two at times, but no long, sustained drives.
"Our defense tonight, all year, they just played phenomenal," Petro said. "That's what made this game so special for us tonight."
Mitchell ends his career with a record of 177-131-1. He will be missed by the Northwestern community and beyond.
"I've known him all my life pretty much," Palos said. "I played in the same little league as his family. He's just a phenomenal guy. I've learned so much from him prior to even coaching, what it's all about and what you've got to do to succeed."