Like many of his North Penn teammates, especially those who are seniors, Casey Reim fought hard to hold back the tears.
It was a futile attempt. Shortly after a victory-filled high school career had come to a close in a 21-14 loss yesterday to Liberty and its potent ball-control offense, Reim's emotions were swirling.
His final game in a navy-and-powder-blue uniform. The end to a 14-game winning streak. Plans for a trip to Hershey, for a shot at the school's first state championship since 2003, canceled.
"Yeah, it hurts, said Reim, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior defensive lineman. "We expected to be the ones moving on and playing for a state title. They took us by surprise."
With a run-heavy attack that kept the Knights on their heels, the Hurricanes mustered scoring drives of 80, 57 and 80 yards. Those marches lasted 18, 11 and 12 plays, respectively.
"They were real good," Reim said. "We angled, tried to change things up. None of it worked, really. Their line was strong and their running backs did a nice job of finding the holes that were opened for them."
Reim, a first-year starter who switched between end and tackle, registered seven tackles. He had six solo stops, including three in the first half.
In avenging a 23-15 loss to North Penn on Aug. 29, Liberty netted 218 yards on the ground. Quarterback Anthony Gonzalez (4-for-4 passing, 53 yards), fullback Daryl Klotz, and tailback Brandon Brader capitalized on stellar line play.
Reim and company had handled Neshaminy's bigger interior players a week earlier, in a 28-0 win that produced a PIAA District 1 championship, so Liberty's consistency at gaining yards on the ground surprised most on hand at Coatesville High.
"It was hard out there, with those long drives," said Reim, who earned second-team all-Suburban One League Continental Conference honors.
Before the Knights' playoff run, Reim had arrived at practice sporting a Mohawk haircut.
"I just wanted to change things up a little bit," he said. "I was hoping a few of my teammates would have joined me, but that didn't happen."
North Penn's other defensive leaders yesterday were freshman end Ralph Reeves (nine tackles, six solo) and senior tackle Drew Brady (five tackles, including a third-quarter sack).
Wishing to stay close to the action, Reim is considering a career as a physical therapist or athletic trainer. He is considering South Florida, where some of his extended family lives, and Duquesne.
"I have a lot of good memories," he said. "We won 14 games, won a district championship. It's been the greatest year of my life."