Certainly a 37-0 defeat to Parkland for the District 11 Class AAAA championship wasn't the way that Pleasant Valley head coach Jim Terwilliger wanted to go out.
But despite that tough defeat to the No. 6 seeded Trojans (10-2 overall; 8-1 in LVC) on Friday night at Parkland Middle School, the No. 7 seeded Bears (8-4 overall; 7-1 in MVC) definitely don't consider this season a let down one bit.
"You hate walking away with the silver," said Terwilliger. "But in the broad scheme of things it was a huge step for our program. And I realize that and I really just appreciate the work the seniors have put in and what the guys on our football team have done in trying to build this thing up."
As was the case for much of Parkland's season, the Trojans once again displayed their big play ability in overtaking the Bears early.
In a first half in which the Bears found some success moving the ball down the field, the Trojans and their high-powered offense held a 10-0 lead with just a few minutes remaining in the first half.
But that's when a number of their playmakers - in particular quarterback Tim Baranek - gave the offense a much needed spark.
The Trojans capped off an 11-play drive with a five-yard Baranek touchdown run with 2:31 to play in the half to make it 17-0. After the Bears tried their hurry-up offense in an attempt to close the gap before halftime, it was the Trojans taking over just over a minute later.
And on their next offensive play from scrimmage, it was Baranek hooking up with running back Jarel Elder down the middle of the field for a 55-yard strike just 1:16 after Baranek's sneak. The Trojans scored 21 points in that decisive third quarter.
"Their linebackers were outstanding," said Terwilliger. "We couldn't consistently block them up front to be able to be successful and go execute our game plan. They have great speed all around."
The Bears did force the Trojans into punts on three straight drives to open the second half, but a few mistakes from Pleasant Valley's offense would loom large in any comeback attempt.
A sack and lost fumble by quarterback Brandon Leap halted a Bears 9-play drive on their first second half possession. That was then followed up by a turnover on downs again in Parkland territory after another Trojan sack, and an interception of a quarterback Brandon Kuehner pass - who replaced an injured Leap - that was returned for a score by Jarel Elder to make it 31-0 with 55 seconds to play in the third.
"You play in a District championship game you can't fumble the ball and throw picks," said Terwilliger. "You can't turn the ball over. Especially against a team that can make big plays. You have to limit those [and] you have to control the ball and work some clock."
Elder then added a another score 1:46 later with a 51-yard scamper up the middle.
While the ground game struggled to find a consistent rhythm throughout the game, Leap gradually became more comfortable with his receiving corp in the second half before exiting. Leaf was 12-for-17 with 119 yards and an interception.
Running back Austyn Borre paced the Bears on the ground with 33 yards on 14 carries. Wideout Tony Bell caught five passes for 60 yards and receiver Sekou Jones had 38 yards on three catches.
"We have great kids and the kids work extremely hard [and] our coaches coach," said Terwilliger. "It was neat to be here tonight and that's what we worked for all year - to be in a position to play for a District title."