Loudoun Valley Coach Danny McGrath waited patiently, not wishing to shout over the Northside marching band.
When the music fell silent, he turned to face his group of 15- to 18-year-olds kneeling in the end zone and delivered a painful speech to his players.
“Hopefully,” McGrath began, “you all will have long lives ahead of you. It would be a real shame if you let singular moments define them.”
There were a few difficult moments for Loudoun Valley in its 29-14 loss to Northside in the Virginia 3A semifinals.
Northside jumped out to a 9-0 lead with 4 minutes 18 seconds left in the first quarter, but Loudoun Valley (11-3) answered with a nine-play scoring drive that culminated with Brandon Grayson plowing into the end zone from a yard out on a draw out of the wildcat formation.
“There’s options out of that, to run with it,” Grayson said of his snaps behind center. “It adds a spice to the offense.”
But 9-7 was as close as Loudoun Valley got. Northside quarterback Dominic Dunnaville tossed three touchdown passes, two to senior wide receiver Harold Buckner III.
“We weren’t surprised by that,” said Valley senior cornerback Marcus Oden. “You can’t stop them from making plays with the guy they have [at quarterback]. He’s really good, but nothing we hadn’t seen before on film.”
Dunnaville wasn’t Valley’s only coverage problem.
“We tried to tarp the fields as best we could, but the tarp only went from the 20 [yard line] to the 20,” Grayson said with a laugh. “So the end zones were kinda wet and slick.”
Loudoun Valley tried an onside kick, but Northside (13-1) handled it to end the Vikings’ improbable run through the state playoffs.
For Valley, which won 11 games for the first time in school history, the run to a state title shot ended about four quarters short, McGrath told his players.
“In the beginning, I knew we could win a lot of games,” Grayson said. “We kept winning and winning and winning, and before we knew it, Coach said this was the first 10-win season, record-breaking. It was fun all year.”