York, PA - There was a scene after Friday's District 3 Class AAA quarterfinal game between Spring Grove and West York that summed up the season for the Rockets.
Junior running back Jeff Delaughter put head coach Russ Stoner in a bear hug as the football team listened to its school band play.
"Coach is a pretty good guy. He loves us and is just a really good guy," Delaughter said. "I've learned a lot from him."
Family, friends and fans stood and clapped for the Spring Grove players and coaches, who had just suffered a 42-17 loss to West York, putting closure on one of the great turnaround seasons in recent memory.
Last season, Spring Grove finished 1-9 overall and didn't win a Division I game.
This season, the Rockets went 4-1 in the division and earned a share of the division crown. A 7-3 regular season gave the Rockets the No. 10 seed in the district tournament.
Spring Grove beat No. 7 Shippensburg, 24-0, in the first round to set up Friday's game against West York.
"We believed in ourselves when no one else believed in us. Not even our community," said Rockets senior quarterback Matt Runge, who finished with 172 passing yards and 65 rushing yards on Friday. "We built a heck of a program. I hope it keeps on growing from here."
Those were the sentiments following the season-ending loss to second-seeded West York.
Stoner wants to see his team get into districts and play into late November every year.
"Nobody thought we could do what we did this year," Stoner said. "I'm proud of the effort and the commitment they made.
"I don't want to be a flash in the pan. I want us to be the West York's and Central's of this league, too. As soon as the New Year gets here, we'll be back in the weight room."
On Friday, Spring Grove scored the game's first three points off an Andrew Luckenbaugh 40-yard field goal.
Spring Grove wouldn't score again until the fourth quarter. In between, West York ran off 42 straight points.
"They played very well, and we made some young mistakes," Stoner said after the game. "We're going to be back here. They played liked the seventh-ranked team in the state tonight."
Delaughter scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Runge with 9:18 to play in the game. Runge capped the Rockets scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run with 3:31 remaining.
Delaughter, who recorded 58 rushing yards and two receiving yards, will be a senior next year. But, he knows that next season starts in a few weeks.
"We're going to work hard in the weight room and do our normal winter workout," Delaughter said. "All of our hard work in the weight room just showed that we can do whatever we want now. We just have to keep going at it."
The turnaround wasn't just noticeable in the record -- the Rockets finished 8-4 -- it could be seen in the stats.
Spring Grove scored 119 points in 10 games in 2011. In 2012, they posted 322 points in 12 games. The Rockets scored 40 or more points in four wins this season.
It also was the first season that Stoner called the offensive plays in his career.
"It was a lot of fun," Stoner said. "I have a lot to learn. We want to be wide open, and we want to have fun. I don't just want to dive right and dive left, and I think our kids bought into that whole thing as well."
The defensive side of the ball also saw improvement.
In 2011, the Rockets allowed 415 points in 10 games. This season, in 12 games, they gave up 259 points, a nearly 20 points per game improvement.
There were 12 seniors listed on Spring Grove's roster for Friday's game, a group Stoner won't soon forget.
"They had to feel out the new guy," said Stoner, who just completed Year 2 as the Rockets head coach. "These kids here stuck with me, and I'm so happy and proud they stuck with me. Their effort gave them a chance to do what they did."