ALLENTOWN - Andrew Hodges was hurting.
There was blood coming from his nose, all over his white jersey. He had a bloody right knuckle, and a broken left ring finger. And the Ridley High senior running back was hurting even more every time he looked at fellow seniors Rob Lamey and Steve Egee.
It stung knowing that he would take off his Ridley uniform for the last time, after Parkland High's 35-21 victory in the PIAA Class AAAA Eastern Final at J. Birney Crum Stadium on Saturday.
Ridley concluded a historic run by finishing 13-1, winning the first District 1 Class AAAA title in school history and going deeper into the state playoffs than any Ridley team since 1990.
But Hodges, Egee and Lamey weren't ready to take any solace in what they achieved. Their concentration, and the stinging tears in their eyes, came from what was still on the scoreboard.
"It does hurt, it does," said Hodges, who, if there were an MVP on the Green Raiders or in Delaware County football this season, would have been it after scoring 25 touchdowns and playing stellar defense at linebacker.
"I know I'll look back on this season and be really pleased with what we did, knowing we made history, knowing we're going to get a banner up in the gym with this team on it, but I can't really think about that now," Hodges said. "We accomplished a lot, but we could have accomplished more. [Parkland] didn't beat us, we beat ourselves. We made too many mistakes and hurt ourselves. That's what hurts, that, and seeing my teammates hurting. That what kills me more."
It was a group that thought of each other before thinking about themselves, Green Raiders coach John Waller said.
"We'd be preparing for next season already if we didn't get this far," Waller said, "so I'm thankful we reached this point. Sure, I would have liked to have gone farther, but this was a team that I think it's fair to say exceeded our original expectations. Remember, we lost eight starters on defense and seven on offense. We didn't envision this."
But during preseason camp, Waller noted, some things started to come together. Egee, a Division I-caliber basketball player, decided to play football, and was inserted as the starting quarterback, and developed as the season progressed.
"We opened up tough, against a good Strath Haven team, and played well, then we started to think we could be better than we thought," Waller said.
Good enough to reach the state semifinals, good enough to come back from a 21-7 halftime deficit, tying the score 21-21 early in the fourth quarter on Egee's 18-yard touchdown pass to Lamey, and Egee's completion to Steve Gregg for the two-point conversion.
But Parkland (15-0) scored on successive drives, a 50-yard TD run by Sam Tajiri and 56-yard scoring jaunt by Kevin Herod.
"We just had too many defensive breakdowns, which is what really hurts," said Lamey, who had 10 catches for 137 yards and the touchdown. "Right now, I'm kind of angry at myself for not playing better on defense, but I know I'll be able to look back and be proud of this playoff run."
Egee thanked his teammates for having him back, and they in return thanked the 6-2, 185-pound senior for coming back after not playing as a junior.
"I know I have basketball coming up, but I don't know if it's anything I might be looking forward to right now, or even tomorrow," said Egee, who is receiving attention from Princeton, Hartford and William & Mary for hoops. "In a few weeks, I think it will sink in, all the good things we did this season, and how I was really happy to come back and do this again, playing football one last time." *
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