MERRILLVILLE | With 5:49 left in the fourth quarter, Nick Serrato's hands were clapping thunderously. His voice boomed around Andrean's sideline.
The senior 59er barked to inspire his teammates. It was sharp and to the point.
“Let's go, let's go!” Serrato said. “Let's get some points! Let's go boys — keep fighting!”
You might think the Class 2A Northern Semistate against Fort Wayne Luers was tied when Serrato uttered his philosophy, or maybe the 59ers trailed by three at a jam-packed Father Eckert Field.
That would be wrong. Not on this night. Not against this team.
But Serrato's voice spoke for a senior class that made a mountain out of a molehill this autumn.
Andrean trailed three-time defending state champion Luers 35-14 when the 59ers' tight end and linebacker spoke.
The 59ers listened, too. They drove down and Matt DeSomer scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:25 to play. Senior Matt Anderson then kicked a perfect onside kick that Andrean recovered.
The season ended on downs. But unlike last year's last loss on the same field against Wheeler, the 59ers walked off the field with their heads held high.
That is exactly how it should've been.
“I had so much fun with these guys,” senior Zack Kogut said. “The worst thing about this is I don't get to come out here and do this anymore with these guys. We gave it everything we had.”
In the hot summer sun, when this season started, wearing an Andrean football lettermen's jacket wasn't the thing to do. The sting of last year's 12-7 loss to Wheeler in the sectional opener was heavy and overbearing.
That loss was the biggest upset in Region playoff history.
It would've been easy for these seniors, this program, to hang their heads. To stop believing. To run and hide, really.
“We didn't have a great relationship with our coach when the season started,” Serrato said. “He was hard on us. He taught us how to be leaders. He taught us lessons that will help us in life, and that's the most important thing.”
After last year's debacle, Andrean won a sectional. Then, the 59ers won one of the greatest playoff games in Indiana history when they knocked off Lewis Cass 67-66 in five overtimes to win their first regional since 2004.
Surely all the seniors were saying, “Let's go boys. Keep fighting,” last Friday.
They took the monkey off their back and threw it into Lake Michigan. Then, against Luers, the 59ers played a very good game. They just lost to a much better team.
Andrean made the kings sweat a little bit.
“These seniors laid the groundwork for what we accomplished this year,”Andrean coach Phil Mason said. “Our seniors did a great job leading. I am so proud of the way they played.”
Take a bow, boys. You did everything you could. You never stopped fighting.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.