A line of blue-clad players stood as shook hands with each of them. Sure, their season ended with a 19-8 loss to fourth-seeded Hershey in the District 3 boys' lacrosse quarterfinals. No, the match wasn't in doubt for long. Hershey took just 18 seconds to score the first goal and never trailed.
But this was a stage the Rams (14-6) had not seen until Thursday night.
"A chance to spend another practice or two with these kids and another game, even with (Thursday's) game, it was just great," Nelson said.
That's why, as the fourth quarter wound down on their season, one of Nelson's assistants reminded players they were one of the district's final eight teams. They were the only boys' team from the YAIAA to win a postseason lacrosse match this year.
The difference in talent, however, quickly became apparent.
Hershey saw its bid for a third straight Mid-Penn title denied last week in a 12-8 loss to Carlisle. That same Carlisle team, which beat Penn Manor earlier Thursday at Lower Dauphin, made sure to wish Kennard-Dale players good luck while passing behind the Rams' bench.
A few minutes later, the Trojans (19-2) already had a 2-0 lead. Kennard-Dale junior Jesse Schonbrunner cut it in half, but the Rams were no closer the rest of the night.
The deficit became 5-1. Nelson called timeout. Kennard-Dale took control of the ball, but three straight times the Rams turned over the ball. Hershey scored six straight times after Schonbrunner's goal, and the missed opportunities mounted for Kennard-Dale.
"I think we got to the point where we were afraid to make a mistake," Nelson said, "so we didn't do anything. We didn't do anything right or anything good.
"I think we could have scored three or four more goals."
Passes that flung too high and shots that veered too became the Rams' frustration. Hershey took advantage on most of those errors. The Trojans fired 48 shots in the direction of Kennard-Dale junior goalie Ethan White, who just returned this week from a broken thumb that sidelined him for a month.
White managed 17 saves among the shots that managed to find him or the back of the net.
"When you're a goalie you got shots coming here and there, and you think it's your fault," Nelson said. "It's a combination of things. It's a missed ground ball down here that leads to a pass here and nobody sliding there, and boom. They're, as Hershey, good enough to find those openings."
Nelson hopes this late run will serve as a launching pad to next year. When that time comes, he should have White back among others. One of them is Schonbrunner, who scored a team-high three goals in Thursday's loss.
HERSHEY 19, KENNARD-DALE 8
Kennard-Dale 2 3 2 1 -- 8
Hershey 8 3 6 2 -- 19
First Quarter -- 1. Hershey, Logan Calhoun (Joe Clark), 11:42. 2. H, Jonathon Sickler (George Briggs), 9:42. 3. Kennard-Dale, Jesse Schonbrunner, 7:43. 4. H, Calhoun, 6:50. 5. H, Jacob Wilson, 5:49. 6. H, Briggs (Clark), 5:33. 7. H, Justin Wilson, 4:19. 8. H, Calhoun (Briggs), 0:58. 9. H, Briggs (Calhoun), 0:38. 10. KD, Alex Walsh, 0:08.
Second Quarter -- 11. H, Calhoun, 11:29. 12. KD, Anthony Rhodes (Nate Mikolinis), 10:45. 13. KD, Schonbrunner, 10:26. 14. H, Briggs (Calhoun), 8:11. 15. KD, Dave Wallace, 5:04. 16. H, Justin Wilson, 0:44.
Third Quarter -- 17. H, Clark, 11:27. 18. H, Clark, 8:59. 19. KD, Freddy Seitz (Wallace), 6:58. 20. H, Briggs (Clark), 4:18. 21. H, Karl VanBlargen (Briggs), 3:33. 22. H, Clark, 3:03. 23. KD, Schonbrunner (Wallace), 1:11. 24. H, David Sickler (Calhoun), 0:24.
Fourth Quarter -- 25. H, Jake Cronin (Calhoun), 10:37. 26. KD, Seitz (Schonbrunner), 2:39. 27. H, Nicholas Oggero (Joseph Olives), 0:22.
Shots -- KD 31, H 48.
Goalies -- KD, Ethan White (17 saves); H, Kyle Kondracki (12 saves).