The scene after the game was the stuff outrage is made of.

A sense of finality, a feeling of triumph - winners and losers - are part of the essence of a state championship.

It's why games are played.

But it was missing from last week's NJSIAA Group 1 boys' soccer state championship, which ended in a 1-1 tie between Haddon Township and Verona.

The teams were crowned co-champions.

It was a hollow gesture.

Players walked off the field confused, unsure of how to feel or react.

Neither team looked satisfied. There was no sense of finality. But their seasons were over.

It didn't look right. It didn't feel right.

But, yes, on balance, it was the right call.

And when the initial gut-punch wore off and the raw emotion subsided, cooler heads, by coaches and players, agreed that this was the best decision, albeit a frustrating one.

A sense of maturity helped carry the Hawks this season.

Their 14 seniors were the backbone of one of the most successful eras in the history of Haddon Township boys' soccer.

More than that, they're throwbacks, soccer guys. And their coach, Jim Bonder, is a soccer guy - a lifer in the sport.

And to the ears of many soccer purists, the idea of ending a state title game with a penalty-kick shootout is about on par with ending it by flipping a coin.

A coin flip would have given outraged fans the finality they demanded. But it would have negated the 100 minutes of brilliant, hard-fought soccer that preceded it.

There's too much guessing involved in penalty kicks. And it goes further than that.

"This is a team game," Hawks senior midfielder Michael Reece said after the game. "And you wouldn't want to see this game decided by an individual effort on a penalty kick."

"PKs would have just made the outcome that much harder on somebody. You wouldn't want to see it end like that," said senior goalie Kieran Burns.

Bonder is part of the NJSIAA committee that votes on rule changes, including the co-champion system. The committee is comprised of people who have dedicated parts of their lives to soccer.

And while most, including Bonder, agree that a co-champion system is not an ideal situation, it's the best possible alternative.

Asking Haddon Township and Verona to play a third overtime would have been preposterous. The players were so exhausted after two overtimes that some didn't look as if they'd make it from the field to the bus.

Penalty kicks were a decidedly undignified way to crown a state champion.

And while a co-state champion system felt empty, it didn't feel quite as faulty as having to watch a keeper guess wrong on a penalty kick and cost his team a state title.

That type of gut-punch doesn't subside so easily.

The dejection on the players' faces was tough to watch last week when the game ended in a tie. But it lasted all of 15 minutes.

At the end of the day, the Hawks were, in fact, state champions.

And that's the feeling that will last a lifetime.