Quantico Coach Paul Roy consoles the Warriors after their comeback bid falls short against Roanoke Catholic in the VISAA Division III title game. (Nick Eilerson/The Washington Post)

It shouldn’t have been remotely close. Quantico registered one first down in the opening half of Friday’s Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state final. Four of its first five plays from scrimmage resulted in negative yardage. The Warriors’ opponent, Roanoke Catholic, held size advantages at every position.

Surrender, however, is a foreign concept to the boys on Marine Corps Base Quantico. Even as Roanoke Catholic rolled to a 38-21 victory in the season’s final game, the spirited demeanor on the home team’s sideline at Butler Stadium never wavered.

“We did everything we could. We fought hard,” Quantico senior linebacker William Neil said. “The only way you could take us off the field is on a stretcher.”

It looked like a stretcher might be needed when the two unfamiliar opponents came face to face for the game’s first play. Quantico gave up hundreds of pounds at the line of scrimmage to Roanoke Catholic’s meaty front, and the Warriors paid the price.

Quantico’s run-heavy offense posted minus-3 yards in the first quarter, allowing the Celtics (10-1) to jump out to a 14-0 lead behind two touchdowns from tailback Mykah English.

Freshman quarterback Max Brown injected life into the Warriors’ attack in his first play off the bench. He lofted a rare Quantico pass down the right sideline to junior wide receiver Victor Diaz, who scampered 61 yards into the end zone midway through the second quarter. A holding penalty wiped out Caleb Hall’s dazzling 41-yard run that would have put the Warriors, then trailing 22-7, at the 2-yard line with 2.6 seconds left in the half.

Roanoke Catholic outgained Quantico 395-147 overall and extended its lead to 38-7 midway through the third quarter. Still, the Warriors (11-1) remained upbeat, knowing they were playing in their school’s first state final since 1996. They were the first Quantico team to go 10-0 in the regular season.

So instead of whimpering to the final whistle, the Warriors finished with aplomb. First, the speedy Hall knifed his way to a 71-yard kickoff return touchdown, then Diaz recorded his second score of the game off a nine-yard toss from Jack Kelly.

“We fought till the end,” Neil said, “and that’s what counts.”

The long gazes during Friday’s trophy presentation weren’t marks of depression. The stoic Warriors thought back on how far they had come, from a ragtag bunch that could barely execute a fly route in August to an unprecedented team that roared all the way to November’s ultimate stage. Some players had never touched a football until recently, such as Enrique Ferreira, who knew only about that other football when he moved from Spain two years ago.

“This is my family,” Ferreira said. “My team taught me how to play, taught me everything, and here I am.”