As the Derby Panthers hoisted the state 6A football trophy with their fans at midfield, Dustin Delaney stood amidst his football team 20 yards away for the final time this 2013 season.
Their heads were low. Some of the boys were crying. The Lancers had lost — and with the loss went their unprecedented opportunity to bring home the school’s first state title. Perhaps the dour mood was to be expected. The Lancers had hung right with a Derby team that many had expected to blow them out. Had a play or two broken the other way, the Lancers might have been the ones dancing around with the title trophy in their hands. They had been so close.
But, as the finality of the loss sunk in, Delaney made sure to remind his team of the their tremendous accomplishments.
“I’m proud of you,” he told them. “You all should be extremely proud of yourselves.”
That’s hard to argue. By just about any measure, the 2013 football season — Delaney’s first at the helm for the Lancers — was the best in school history. Prior to this year, no SM East team had won more than nine games. The 2013 Lancers won 11. Prior to this year, the team had made its way to sub-state just twice in school history. This year’s squad made it to sub-state — and won, advancing to the title game for the first time ever.
And after the opening quarter of Saturday’s game, it was hard not to believe that the Lancers wouldn’t complete Delaney’s ultimate goal of bringing a 6A title home this year. Derby’s team had blown through the playoffs, averaging nearly 21 first-quarter points in the three games leading up to the championship. The Lancers’ stingy defense not only kept Derby off the scoreboard in the first quarter Saturday, they didn’t allow the Panthers a first down. After the first quarter, it was clear the Lancers were in it.
But four Lancer turnovers on the day and a Derby offense that gained traction in the second quarter proved too much for SM East to overcome, and the day and the 6A title ultimately belonged to the Panthers.
For SM East fans, though, there’s a bright silver lining in the wake of the loss: The team that accomplished everything it did this year started just six seniors. That means more than a dozen of the players who navigated SM East to the threshold of a title will be back next year — and you better believe they’ll be hungry.
Listen to coach Delaney’s post-game remarks below.
Thanks to this year’s great players and fans for an amazing ride. See you on the field next year!
Dustin Delaney postgame comments