The players talked about the years they'd spent together. Many had played on the same team since they were 7 years old.
And they talked about history.
"No one else has done what we've done," senior defender Jimmy Kryjer said Sunday after the Mainland boys' soccer team dropped the Group 3 state boys' soccer championship, 2-1, to Mendham at Kean University.
"This loss is hard now," Kryjer said, "but we'll be able to look back 10 years from now and still be proud of what we accomplished.
"The bonds this team formed were incredible — we were more than a team. We were a family."
This was the first boys' soccer state championship appearance in Mainland school history. After a slow start, the group led by 12 seniors made the most of its last time on the field together.
The Mustangs fell behind by two goals when Calvin Ryan buried his second of the game with 34 minutes, 57 seconds left to play.
But the game was all Mainland after that. With 11:54 left, Dan Adams headed in a rebound off a shot that hit the crossbar.
The goal only increased the intensity on the field and the noise from the packed stands. The final 10 minutes were more a test of physicality and emotion than pure soccer skill.
Mainland came inches from converting several chances against a Mendham team that ended its season with a 20-3 record and second state title in school history.
When it was over, players were limping, several were even bloodied. They were upset about the loss but proud of their effort and season.
"We had our chances, they just didn't go in," said coach Chris Meade, whose team ends the season with a 19-3-3 record. "It's a shame for these guys. They worked their tales off. Our senior class has been unbelievable. … I'm so proud of the team, and blessed to be able to coach them."
Mainland 0 1—1
Mendham 1 1—2
Goals: Ma- Dan Adams; Me- Calvin Ryan 2.
Saves: Ma- Matt Stellitano 4; Me- Ryan Carkhuff 6.