Postgame tears spilled down the face of Central senior Soosung Whang on an unseasonably warm Friday afternoon for a Public League semifinal football matchup.
By game's end, however, Whang could spare the fluids.
Despite temporarily succumbing to a second-half leg cramp, Whang's dynamic play helped the Lancers oust Southern, 20-12, in front of zero patrons at Washington, a result of tension remaining from last year's matchup.
"I'm just so happy we won," Whang said through tears. "We had a rough regular season. Nobody thought we would make it this far. Nobody thought we would make it to the championship. Look at us now."
The victory means the Lancers (3-10, 1-5) will meet Northeast next week for the Class 6A Pub title.
Whang, who finished with 6 catches for 114 yards, was a major reason. His impressive, 69-yard touchdown with 1 minute, 50 seconds left in the half started a flurry of points in an otherwise lackluster half, offensively.
"He's a spark," said Central coach Rich Drayton. "When [teammates] see him do something, everybody else plays better. It's just amazing. I tell that dude I love him all the time, because I do."
Hard feelings, however, remained from last season when Central took exception to a block by a Southern player that injured a Lancer.
Southern coach Frank "Roscoe" Natale was copied on a recent email sent by Drayton to Pub football overseer Ken Geiser.
Natale said he felt the email was threatening in nature. Drayton said the email was not a threat, but him expressing concern for the safety of his players.
Jimmy Lynch, the Pub's executive athletic director, said an investigation determined a threat was not made or intended. All parties declined to elaborate on the email's contents.
At the conclusion of Friday's game, the teams did not shake hands.
An "administrative decision," Lynch said, was made to move the game to Washington and close it to spectators for safety reasons.
The absence of fans didn't seem to diminish the game's intensity. Several players on both teams went down with leg cramps. Some players went down multiple times.
"Bro, cramps are the worst!" Whang said, smiling.
About playing with no fans, he added: "Didn't really have an effect on much. I think we played a hard game. They played a hard game."
After Whang squirted free before the half, Southern responded with Khalil Moore's 35-yard score from Sherriff Jones with 15 seconds left.
The Lancers tallied just before the half on a 39-yard pass from Aquil Robinson to Deshawn Wiggins.
Early in the third quarter, a 4-yard run by James Kee proved to be the decisive score.
Robinson finished 15 of 21 for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Kee added 64 yards and a score on 12 carries.
For Southern (6-4), Parks led the offense with 114 yards and a score on just 9 carries. Jones added 111 yards passing and 72 more rushing.
Central 0 13 7 0 20
Southern 6 6 0 0 12