Suddenly, Drew Loughery began treating Dec. 12 like Dec. 25.
All he needed was a pillow under his jersey, a bushy white beard and a sleigh - complete with reindeer, of course - to zip him from postgame spot to spot on the artificial surface.
After bearing down in the second half to help LaSalle throttle Ridley, 35-7, in a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal before an overflow crowd Saturday afternoon at Northeast High's Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium, Loughery was now bearing gifts.
Shortly after the surprisingly easy win, fueled by a 28-0 second half, had been secured, the 6-1, 205-pound senior quarterback could be spotted trotting across the field with a shiny game ball under his arm. Soon, he handed it to offensive coordinator Brett Gordon and gave him a heartfelt hug.
Later, as the Explorers - most kneeling, some standing - met for an enjoyable gather-'round, Loughery, stationed maybe 8 feet directly in front, tossed an object to coach Drew Gordon, Brett's dad.
A Hershey bar.
Drew, like Brett, was a quarterback in his playing days. But he showed soft hands and cleanly made the catch.
The Catholic League is kinda new to this PIAA stuff - it's only Year No. 2 - but as most followers know by now, Hersheypark Stadium is the site of the state football finals in all four classifications. With State College as the opposition, LaSalle will get its chance to make history Saturday night at 7 o'clock.
Maybe Drew Gordon will bring the candy bar along for good luck? (If he hasn't wolfed it down.)
Loughery said the bar was tossed fieldward by a student spectator, and that he just happened to catch it. He briefly held it aloft as the victorious Explorers grouped in front of the stands to listen to the band perform the school song.
Resisting the snack was difficult.
"I like chocolate a lot," he said. "Just milk chocolate, though. Not dark."
Meanwhile, the week could not have been brighter for Brett Gordon. Thursday, his wife, Tanya, gave birth to Luke Joseph, grandchild No. 3 for Drew, and the first boy. Brett, Drew and Andy Gordon, Luke's deceased great-grandpop, all were quarterbacks at Villanova.
Drew said he didn't know for sure Brett would be able to attend the game until 2 hours beforehand. He knows what he hopes for Luke, though.
"He's got big shoulders and big feet...and a strong arm," Drew said, laughing. "Large biceps...Great eyes...We'll start working with him soon."
Luke already has a quality pigskin. Courtesy of Loughery. Yes, that was the directive as he handed the ball to Brett: "This is for your son."
Brett was nowhere to be seen as an unimpressive 7-7 first half unfolded. Unless you looked upward toward the booth.
Dad said that, at intermission, he was about to ask Son to switch locales to field level when Brett said he'd be doing so anyway.
"I can't always get a read on ," the head coach said. "Brett's good with that. He has a calming effect on him."
Ridley's three-and-out began the third quarter. LaSalle then drove 42 yards in nine plays for what turned out to be the decisive touchdown. Loughery scored it on a 1-yard sneak between center Ryan Geiger and right guard Matt DiGiacomo. He also passed 2-for-2 on the drive, finished the second half 5-for-5 enroute to 10-for-13, 104-yard final numbers, and scored TD No. 3 on another 1-yard thrust.
Also on the ground, Jamal Abdur-Rahman (21-118) and Tim Wade added two scores and one, respectively.
"Once Brett was down on the sideline, we ran some different plays from the first half," Loughery said. "We ran the ball more than we expected to, but we scored 28 points off his calls, so...His dad knows so much about offense, too, but Brett has really been my mentor. He's easy to talk to. I'm really comfortable with him."
In the last few days, Loughery received his first meaningful nibble. A Massachusetts assistant attended a practice, then engaged him in conversation for roughly 20 minutes.
"He said he'll be evaluating me," Loughery reported.
The defense defined opportunistic.
The Explorers recovered five fumbles as Anthony Cognetti (two), Steve Szostak, Pat Resch and Vinny Migliarese did the honors. Cameron Cappo, Mark DiFrangia, Kevin Forster, Joseph Naji and Ryan Saraceni were the forcers. As if that balance in contributions did not impress enough, two other guys, Ryan Otis and Steve Sinnott, were among those who made tackles behind the line.
Cappo, also an offensive starter at tackle, finished the first quarter with a tackle-for-loss and half-sack in addition to his forced fumble.
"We had to set that early tone," Cappo said. "We wanted to stay focused, not let anyone get behind us, fight off the blocks, and play as hard as we could. If we played hard, and to our ability, we knew we'd come out with the W."
Cappo, a 6-foot, 210-pound junior, boasts one lifetime visit to Hershey.
"It was a fun time. Just like next week should be," he said
Noted Loughery: "I can't say this is total satisfaction, but it's a lot of satisfaction because it's everything we've been working for since last offseason, and then all the way from August up to now. Here we are, just days away from playing for the state title. Pretty surreal."