Helmets held aloft, tears still clinging to their faces, La Salle's football players gathered on the sideline for their band's solemn serenade of the alma mater.
The Explorers fell Saturday in overtime, 16-13, to District 11's Parkland in a PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal at Northeast that was fraught with tension, drama, and even some controversy.
Devante Cross scored the winning touchdown from 4 yards out on Parkland's second play of its only overtime possession.
The Boston College-bound quarterback barreled up the middle on what appeared to be a designed run.
"Boy, our kids played hard," La Salle coach John Steinmetz said. "It was a great high school football game. Both sides really competed. . . . They're a good football team. It's hard - they have a quarterback and a wide receiver, and they have a lot of talent over there."
La Salle (8-4) scored its overtime points on Matt Savage's 20-yard field goal. Savage also made a 26-yarder with 4 minutes, 56 seconds left in regulation to give the Explorers a 10-7 lead.
Parkland, which will play Upper Dublin in the state semifinals next weekend, responded with a 13-play, 77-yard drive. It ended on a game-tying 20-yard field goal by Donovan Berger with 40.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Four plays before that, a La Salle defensive back was flagged for interference on an incomplete pass on fourth and 5 from the Explorers' 31-yard line.
Contact appeared to be made between defensive back and receiver on the pass, which appeared to sail several yards over the head of Kenny Yeboah. The 6-foot-5, Temple-bound receiver never jumped to attempt the catch.
Anger rained down on the officiating crew from the La Salle sideline and cheering section. The Explorers sideline was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for protesting the call.
"I saw it as uncatchable," Steinmetz said. "I know there's no uncatchable pass in high school football, but it just seemed like the play was way out of bounds. You know, hey, the official made the call. It is what it is, and we still held them to three points there."
La Salle was led by senior Nick Rinella, who finished with five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, an interception, a sack, and several pass deflections.
Parkland (13-1) was led by Cross, who finished 14 of 24 for 144 yards. He gained 106 more yards on the ground and had two touchdowns. He also added an interception.
La Salle, which defeated St. Joseph's Prep for the Catholic League Class AAAA championship, led, 7-0, after the first quarter. The teams entered halftime tied at 7.
"This season means the world to us," Rinella said. "People were writing us off in the beginning of the season. We came out here, won the Catholic League, won districts [District 12 AAAA title], and came up short here. Heck of a season. Wouldn't trade it for anything."
Parkland 0 7 0 3 6 - 16
La Salle 7 0 0 3 3 - 13
LS: Nick Rinella 35 pass from Chris Ferguson (Matt Savage kick)
P: Devante Cross 8 run (Donovan Berger kick)
LS: FG Savage 26
P: FG Berger 20
LS: FG Savage 20
P: Cross 4 run (no attempt)