HERSHEY - Connor Daly stood tall, and looked assorted questioners dead in the eye. A difficult loss had rocked him, but it had no prayer of changing who he is.
The final score in the Class AAAA football championship game, played Saturday night at Hersheypark Stadium, was North Allegheny 21, La Salle 0.
That'll take a while for Daly and his teammates to fathom, especially since a 2009 appearance in that very same contest, against State College, had produced a trophy - snow covered, at that - for the Explorers' overflowing awards case.
This time, little went well. Almost nothing, truth be told.
The Explorers (13-2) committed five turnovers, posted a gain of more than 17 yards just once in 52 plays and their defense - Daly, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior linebacker, was a seasonlong stalwart - twice was burned by big plays.
Trick plays, at that. The Tigers' second touchdown was scored on a double reverse. A pass off a reverse set up No. 3, placing the ball at the 1 after a 30-yard gain.
"We didn't see the reverse halfback pass [on film]," Daly said. "That was out of nowhere . . . But we've gotta be ready for it. No excuses.
"Our offense wasn't clicking and our defense got put it bad situations. We didn't have it in the tank. Weren't making things happen. Their line was the biggest we've ever seen. Not just one guy. Every single one. They were the biggest factor in their win. I give them credit.
"It's tough to make it this far, then walk away on the opposite side of the scoreboard. Not a good feeling . . . But you have to bounce back and move on with your life."
Daly, his uniform speckled with dots of blood, did his talking on the field, shortly after coach Drew Gordon concluded a post-game meeting with his players.
Minutes later, Jamal Abdur-Rahman, so wonderful this season and throughout his career as a rusher, receiver, returner and cornerback, expressed his thoughts in front of the stands after accepting best wishes from family and fans.
"Every time we mounted a good couple of plays, we turned the ball over," he said. "That kept giving them momentum.
"I don't want to sound sour, and they do deserve respect because they did win the game, but that's definitely a beatable team. We killed ourselves. We kept getting bit by the turnover bug."
La Salle's best chance at a score, with North Allegheny ahead by 7-0, came midway through the second quarter. Runs of 15 and 13 yards by Abdur-Rahman. A 17-yarder by Tim Wade. A 16-yard pass from Matt Magarity to Sean Coleman. They all helped to swoosh the ball from La Salle's 7 to the Tigers' 11. But after a procedure call placed the ball on the 16, a field-goal try was nixed and Magarity's over-the-middle pass was intercepted.
There was scant, second-half drama; the Explorers had scored in 47 consective games.
While Abdur-Rahman is bound for Villanova, Daly is unsure what his future will bring. He knows he wants to play college football and he's thinking about staying in shape by joining the wrestling squad.
He also appreciates, to the max, all that happened in pads.