Fans of the Watersprings Warriors saved their loudest cheer for last.
At the end of a 44-34 home loss to Kendrick in the 1A Division 2 state football quarterfinals on Saturday, the home fans erupted with a rich, throaty cheer for their boys in royal blue.
The season was over. The playoff run had ended.
But the noise coming from the west stands at Watersprings would have made you think otherwise.
Those same fans made their way to midfield to celebrate the 2020 season with their beloved Warriors, and it was all hugs and smiles and tears.
“It’s just such a bittersweet ending,” senior tailback Matt Almgren said. “This senior class has fought through so much over the last four years, and we’ve been together since fourth grade, and the bonds you build in this game are like nothing else.”
Kendrick (6-1) jumped out to a 20-0 first quarter lead on Watersprings, adding a pair of late second quarter scores to take a 36-16 lead into the half.
Watersprings won the second half, however, scoring three touchdowns to Kendrick’s one.
The Warrirors had the fourth quarter-momentum when Almgren scored from 31 yards out on a pass from Jrew Plocher, but the Tigers put on their clock-killing shoes to slam the door.
After giving up three quick scores, Watersprings tightened up on defense, led by seniors Gavin Tomlinson (nine tackles), Spud Remer (seven tackles, two sacks), and Robert Canfield (three sacks, two fumble recoveries, one interception).
Canfield’s interception went the other way for a 71-yard touchdown, producing a cheer nearly as loud as the one that ended the game.
“We had a great defensive scheme put in by the coaches, and all that was due to that preparation,” Canfield said. “I was a little winded after that (interception), but it was pretty fun.”
Canfield also caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Plocher late in the first half.
In all, the Warriors managed just 245 yards from scrimmage against a similarly stingy Kendrick defense.
With his shoulder pads off and his nephew in his arms, Remer was putting on a brave smile as he prepared to walk off the Watersprings field for the final time.
“You always know it is going to come to an end, but you never expect it will end so fast,” Remer said.
KENDRICK 44, WATERSPRINGS 34
Kendrick 20 16 8 0 — 44
Watersprings 0 16 12 6 — 34
K — Matt Fletcher 7 run (Jagger Hewett from Ty Koepp) 7:12
K — Fletcher 42 interception return (run failed) 6:57
K — Koepp 60 run (pass failed) 1:53
W — Matt Almgren 1 run (Almgren run) 9:29
W — Robert Canfield 21 pass from Drew Plocher (Plocher run) 2:14
K — Hewett 55 pass from Koepp (Fletcher run) 2:04
K — Hewett 33 pass from Koepp (Wyatt Fitzmorris from Koepp) :36
W — Peyton West 5 run (pass failed) 5:41
K — Hewett 47 pass from Koepp (Talon Alexander run) 3:31
W — Canfield 71 interception return (pass failed) :34
W — Almgren 31 pass from Plocher (run failed) 4:10
RUSHING — Kendrick: Koepp 15-157, Fletcher 11-71, Hewett 2-13, Alexander 5-(-7). Watersprings: Almgren 14-66, Gavin Tomlinson 3-63, Plocher 9-27, West 6-26.
PASSING — Kendrick: Koepp 13-22-1-219. Watersprings: Plocher 4-12-2-63.
RECEIVING — Kendrick: Hewett 5-145, Fletcher 5-52, Hunter Taylor 1-15, Fitzmorris 1-8, Alexander 1-5. Watersprings: Almgren 1-31, Canfield 1-21, Tomlinson 1-9, Spud Remer 1-2.