SYRACUSE – Luke Timm gritted his teeth and winced as he ran the final route of his scholastic career.
The receiver admitted he had difficulty breathing during the game, and he began to cramp as he shot toward the end zone.
No matter. He curled inside on a hitch route, spun around and caught a pass from Dean Rotger.
That seven-yard touchdown pulled the Our Lady of Lourdes High School football team within three points and, for a moment, that connection gave hope to the team, and hope to a horde of Dutchess County fans who had made the trip to the Carrier Dome or followed on social media.
That would be it for the Warriors, however, as their quest for the first state championship in program history fell just short, 49-46, to South Park of Buffalo in the Class A state final on Friday.
That was the final pass from Rotger to Timm, a fitting cap to their brilliant high school football careers. And just as that touchdown breathed life into Lourdes, when it seemed dim, so too did those players for this program.
With those stalwarts as the foundation, Lourdes won two sectional Class B titles, and this season, became the second Dutchess County team to ever reach the state final.
“We knew going in we had to watch out for those two and we still couldn’t stop them,” South Park quarterback Tyree Brown said. “The receiver is so tall and runs perfect routes, the quarterback was putting the ball in perfect spots.”
Those are the words of the winning quarterback, who totaled six touchdowns in this shootout.
Brown echoed the sentiments of most opponents who have tried — and failed — to contain this record-breaking duo for the last three seasons.
Rotger, who set the Section 1 records for career passing yards and touchdowns this season, threw for 408 yards and accounted for five touchdowns on Friday.
Timm set a state final record with 18 receptions and had 277 yards and three touchdowns — that’s in addition to two interceptions. That’s despite playing with a hurt shoulder and a sprained knee.
“They’re the best I’ve had in 45 years,” Lourdes coach Brian Walsh said. “Talent aside, what makes them so great is their work ethic, resolve and toughness. It’s been an honor and pleasure to have coached them.”
Both players, distraught and exhausted after the loss, shied away from speaking about themselves after this game, instead crediting the efforts of the collective.
At this point, we would expect nothing else. And by this point, we had come to expect epic performances such as these.
The two also star for the Lourdes basketball team, with the point guard Rotger often tossing lobs like completions to Timm, his 6-foot-5 forward.
After that, though, the best friends will part for college. Both expressed before this season how much they will miss each other, and why it was all the more important they make this season memorable.
It was unforgettable.
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4