They sat side by side in the locker room for an hour, still in uniform, with nothing to say. The seniors on the Broadneck football team were in shock Friday night after a 25-7 loss to Damascus in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.
On Sunday, senior linebacker Preston Pehrson was at the mall with his girlfriend, "something new," his mom said, because he now had time. On Monday, Pehrson turned in his uniform, and his high school career was over.
"I was mad it's happened to me three years in a row," Pehrson said. "That's pretty hard. I might have another chance to play, but most of us never will have another chance. . . . Everyone just kind of sat there in shock."
The Anne Arundel County football season ended abruptly Friday night. Three of the four teams, including Broadneck, lost to Montgomery County opponents in the state playoffs. Annapolis lost, 35-15, to a bigger, better Seneca Valley team in the 3A playoffs, and Old Mill had a surprising first half but was outmatched by Gaithersburg, 35-13, in the 4A playoffs. Southern played well defensively but lost to Hereford of Baltimore County, 14-7, in the 2A playoffs.
For the Bulldogs, it was a turning point. For Broadneck, Annapolis and Old Mill, it was the second year in a row they lost in the first round. The quartet's combined playoff record dropped to 11-26, demonstrating once again that the county has a tough time hanging with Montgomery County powerhouses.
"I'm not afraid to say that Montgomery County has very good players and very good coaches," Broadneck Coach Jeff Herrick said. "It's just very difficult to beat Montgomery County right now. Things change, though. Right now they've got a real good reputation and real good tradition."
Broadneck and Annapolis finished the regular season as co-county champions, and each won its respective region. In fact, all of the county playoff teams could be proud of their seasons. Still, it's been a while since the county had something to celebrate in the postseason. North County earned the county's last state championship in 1994 with a 23-6 win against Largo. Annapolis leads the county with 14 playoff appearances, but it also has the most losses (a 7-13 record).
"I'll never play football again," said Annapolis senior punter Patrick Cook-Deegan, who caught his seventh interception of the season on Friday. "That kind of hurt. We also thought we had a pretty strong team this year and we wanted to go to Ravens Stadium [for the state championship]."
The Panthers did have a strong team, but their one-dimensional offense was outmatched by Seneca Valley's ability to run and pass. The Screaming Eagles scored on their first three possessions; Annapolis was pushed back 20 yards on its first drive. In addition, the Panthers committed four turnovers, one that led to a touchdown.
"We made too many mistakes against Seneca Valley," Cook-Deegan said. "They're a really talented team. We had some drives going, but the fumbles hurt us a lot and poor field position put our offense in a difficult spot and helped Seneca Valley a lot on their first few drives."
Six turnovers hurt Old Mill, and the Patriots didn't wait until Monday to hand in their uniforms. That was taken care of promptly after the quiet ride home from Gaithersburg. Some players paid to keep the jerseys with their names on them. By the time the pads and helmets were handed over, senior punter Matt Leone didn't get home until midnight. Saying goodbye took the longest.
"It was sad, but at the same time it was a good season," Leone said. "We didn't go 7-3 and not get in."
Instead, Old Mill won its last five regular season games, including an overtime win against then-undefeated Annapolis. The Patriots pushed Gaithersburg, going to the locker room tied at 7 and trailing 14-13 at the end of the third quarter. Still, the Patriots are 0-6 in the postseason.
"We level off the bottom [teams in the county] but we've also lost to Broadneck and Meade," senior quarterback Tyler Young said. "This year is probably the closest. We went in there and knew we were going against the number one seed. We knew what to expect but we really did know we could beat them. . . . You can't beat anyone, much less Gaithersburg, with six turnovers.
"I've heard other coaches from around the county talk and that's what they believe, if [out-of-county opponents] pull an Anne Arundel County team, they get ready for the second week. If you look at our record, why shouldn't they until somebody steps up and beats them?"
For Southern, advancing to the playoffs was an accomplishment in itself. The Bulldogs won the 2A South Region title and advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in school history. Their first opponent was the defending state champions.
"They were disappointed we lost but I think they realized we could play with them, too," Coach Russ Meyers said. "I'm happy with the way things ended up and us getting in the playoffs. That's a building block.
"The younger players are going to come back knowing what it takes to get to the playoffs and what it takes to be successful there. They will start the season with that and pass that along to the [new] players."
Southern will lose six starters on offense and four on defense to graduation, including standout linebacker Derrelle Taylor, who had 18 tackles Friday and finished the season with 136. Broadneck will surely miss Pehrson, an All-County two-sport athlete.
Annapolis Coach Roy Brown gave credit to Seneca Valley after the game. He said there are rumors every year that he is going to retire, but all he needs is "a little vacation."
Now he has one.