FRANKFORT | When it was over, Tom Padjen stood in a cold drizzle, weary players kneeling before him, and delivered the sort of speech he's delivered 36 times before.
Only one team wins the last game of the season, and over Padjen's 217 wins and 19 playoff berths, it has never been T.F. South.
So, after Lincoln-Way North dismissed the Rebels from the Class 6A playoffs by a 41-6 count Friday, Padjen spoke.
He thanked the seniors. He urged the underclassmen to hit the weight room. He made sure everyone knew when and where to turn in equipment.
Then he veered.
"You know how we tell stories," he said. "Years from now, when we're talking about teams who had their backs to the wall and never quit, we'll be talking about you guys."
After the Rebels (5-5) dispersed, Padjen expounded.
"This team was a pleasure to coach," he said. "At one point, we were 2-3. We didn't win two games in a row until last week.
"The guys worked hard. They fought hard. They never gave up on us."
Not even the Rebels' work ethic could over come the job they handed themselves Friday. Second-seeded Lincoln-Way North (9-1) and its Illinois-bound running back, Julian Hylton, were gifted with unbelievable field position in the first half.
After driving 65 yards to a touchdown after the opening kickoff, the Phoenix had scoring drives of 38, 11, 16, 35 and 16 yards before intermission. North blocked two Cody Petrich punts, had an interception and recovered a fumble to create four of those short fields.
"They never had to go more than 50 yards," Rebels linebacker Ralph Canty said. "Things just never fell into place."
The Rebels did no worse than most with Hylton, who nonetheless ran for 159 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries. Of course, he came into the game with 2,000 yards and 26 TDs in nine games.
Hylton's touchdowns after North grabbed a 14-0 lead on first-quarter scoring passes of six and seven yards from Ryan Arthur to Zach Hoekstra.
South managed only 19 yards on the ground all night. Petrich completed 9-of-19 passes for 159 yards and a 20-yard score to Robert Travis with 10:08 to play.
The Phoenix will host third-seeded Rich Central (9-1), an 18-14 winner over Romeoville, in a second-round game next week.
And what's next for Padjen? A bid for playoff berth No. 20?
"It's Week 10," he said, protesting mildly.
Pressed, he said, "I'd love to continue. I love this job. I'm blessed to have it."