The magical football season of East Gadsden High School ended on a damp night in Jacksonville.
The journey took the Jaguars from the hellish hot practice days of August through more than three months of football.
They had faced all types of teams while winning their district and regional titles. Their 10-2 record had earned them the right to face Bolles High School, one of the best football teams in the state.
And not a team that had just climbed to the top, but one that had owed its district for 30 years and piled up 10 state championships. They have a football facility that is probably second to none in the state and sits between the tennis courts and swimming pool.
We certainly weren't on the poor side of the Panhandle anymore.
Bolles also came with a serious size advantage, a legendary coach and offensive lineman John Theus considered one of the best high school players in the nation.
Though the Jaguars certainly had more depth this season than last and plenty of skilled players, the long campaign had taken its toll. Senior William Sweet had a noticeable limp and there was no shortage of guys wearing plenty of tape.
But they appeared as ready as possible, having practiced at FSU to get a taste of phony turf. And they knew the Bulldogs could be beaten. Raines High School had done it and Baker County High had only lost by a point.
Plus, they had a contingent of hometown fans, who made the 200-mile trek to support their team in this unprecedented season.
The Bulldogs quickly showed off their strong running game marching down the field for their first touchdown with seven minutes left in the first quarter. Seconds later they were on the board again. East fumbled on the first down after the kickoff and a Bulldog ran it in for the score, 14-0.
From early on, the Jaguars could not get their running game going. Again and again their speedy backs seemed trapped by their opponent's large line, often colliding with their own defenders.
As the first quarter ran down, the Bulldogs seemed to pickup ever more momentum moving the ball at will as the Jaguars seemed powerless to stop their attack. And aided by an interception, the first quarter ended 28-0.
Early in the second quarter, junior Dallas Williams cut through the Bolles defenders and brought down the quarterback for a 7-yard sack. And while the East fans were still on their feet cheering, quarterback Treveze Robinson connected with Jaron Reynolds for a 70-yard touchdown pass. The point after by Pedro Popoca was good making in 28-7.
The Bulldogs responded by running the kickoff back for a touchdown but it was called back on penalties. So a few plays later they ran it in again making it 35-7.
Late in the second quarter, Kendre James hauled in a 20-yard Robinson pass for East and Jaleell Reynolds came close getting to getting on the board with a 35-yard catch. But East couldn't capitalize and Bolles put up another 7 to end the half 42-7.
The Bulldogs put up another touchdown and extra point in the third quarter while controlling the ball and keeping the clock moving. It was 49-7.
Neither team could get anything on the scoreboard in final quarter as both sides put in every available player. The game ended 49-7. After shaking hands with their opponents, the Jaguars headed over to the front of the visitor stand to say thanks their supporters for coming.
Afterward in the post-gathering, Coach Corey Fuller told the players they should be proud of what they accomplished this season. "It's been a great year for everybody," he said, pointing out that most schools never get this far.
He exhorted the players to be leaders on campus, excel in academics and ... get ready for next year because preseason training was going to be a lot tougher.
"All through the season we've had problems with turnovers and they caught up with up us early tonight," Fuller said in a following interview. "It's hard to come back, even with the all the things we have accomplished, when you're down by 28 points, it's a mental block to kids that have never been in that spot."
"But I'm very happy," he said. "We had a great run, a great season, but we've got a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do, but we'll get it done."