MERRILLVILLE | The big noise and bright lights disappeared behind the closing door. With a thud, the sounds of celebration became distant.
Andrean football coach Phil Mason sat alone in a quiet, empty room.
He was in the underbelly of Lucas Oil Stadium last Friday afternoon. His head was down. elbows resting on his knees.
The pose was similar to two years earlier. The emotion was not.
"All you have to do is win by one point," Mason said after his 59ers beat Indianapolis Brebeuf, 35-27, to win the Class 3A state championship. Andrean (15-0) finished the season undefeated, ranked No. 1 in the state and it held the largest trophy in the land.
It is believed to be only the second time such a thing occurred in region history.
Mason is The Times Coach of the Year for the 2013 season. The honor comes with the lifting of a heavy, heavy weight.
After jumping out to a 21-0 lead, the Braves stormed back and Mason was heard walking off the field at halftime telling his wife, "We should be up 30,000 to nothing."
Instead, Andrean led 28-14.
The pressure that Mason felt came from what happened on Oct. 21, 2011. A huge favorite, the 59ers were upset by Wheeler 12-7 at Father Eckert Stadium. It was one of the biggest playoff upsets in region history.
After the loss Mason was found in an empty room an hour after the game staring into a bucket of pain. Hushed.
"Honestly, I think I got that monkey off my back last year," Mason said of his team that advanced to the semistate before losing. "We talked about the Wheeler game a lot last year. We didn't talk about it at all this year."
Still, for the ticket-buyers and abundant critics in the cheap seats, last Friday's win put the Wheeler loss into the ground. Finally. For good.
"We wanted to win this for coach," Andrean senior Ramon Guerrero said after the win. "This was for him."
"Coach has been a big part of what we've done this season," senior Adam Kopil said.
The emotion last Friday was not only about redemption. It also dealt with his family, a big part of Mason's life. He lost his father, Bruce, in the spring. It was tough.
Before the semistate win over West Lafayette, Mason gave a pre-game speech that lit a fire under his team before the 'Niners went out and won, 52-7.
When Brebeuf would not go away easily, one 59er after another made a play to save the day, the biggest coming from Donovan Chandler returning an interception 46 yards with 1:00 left in the game.
"Somebody was looking out for us," Mason said. "You gotta believe in something in this life."
When asked who that "Somebody" was, Mason responded quickly.
"You know who I think it was," Mason said.
Then, he walked into the empty room for some solace.