RIDLEY TWP. — The Glen Mills football season, an enriching one, had just ended with a 22-14 loss to Academy Park in the PIAA District One Class AAA championship game.
As for Kevin Owens, the Bulls' coach, he still had time for three more instructions.
"Line up,' he said. "Heads up. Don't be ashamed of anything.'
With that, Owens would drape a second-place medal around the necks of each of his Bulls, the Del-Val League champions whose final drive in a one-possession game fell short.
"Nothing to be ashamed of, not a thing, not a thing,' Owens said. "We had a great season. This was a great bunch of kids who worked hard every single day and came out there and gave their all to us.
"And that's all you can ask as a head coach.'
The Bulls had won, 20-13, at Academy Park in October, claiming the league championship, then churning into the district final. Friday at neutral Phil Marion Field, it took them less than three minutes to prove that nothing they had done was by accident when Shaaheen Dow raced 14 yards for a touchdown and Jan Bartloff's PAT gave them a 7-0 lead.
The game having turned typically tight, given the rampaging in-league rivalry, the Bulls had a chance to pull within a two-point conversion of a tie game with 1:45 left, only to have their final pass deflected by the Knights' Eric Doe.
With that, the Bulls settled for a 9-4 season and more than surface satisfaction.
"We still achieved something,' Dow said. "We took our school the farthest it has ever been in its history, all the way to the district championship game. Even though we didn't come out with the win, we still put it all on the line.'
Over two games in less than a month, the Bulls were outscored by Academy Park by a combined 35-34. One program claimed a league championship, the other a district variety.
And each, as it happened, earned the respect of the other.
"I want a rematch,' Dow said. "But it is a friendly rivalry. Me and a couple of guys from their team are close friends from track. I am going to see them in track season. So I can't get them back on the football field. I am going to have to get them back on the track.'
Such is the reality of single-elimination sports.
"We played great,' Owens said. "If you know Glen Mills, we build a new team every year. This is a group of kids that came together in May or June of this year. And to get to the district finals, you tell me that wasn't a great season. Because that's what we do at Glen Mills, OK. Yeah, we take our lumps the first couple games, but when it comes to the end of the season, this is where we are, playing for the district championship.
"That's what we are all about.'