Twenty-five minutes after the game, many players in the Cedar locker room hadn’t yet taken off their helmets.
It was silent, except for the audible sniffles of players, some of whom played their last game in a Redmen uniform, and the muffled sounds of celebration in the distance.
Such was the gravity of the end, the end of a season that started with so much promise and optimism, and a season that ended at the hands of Park City, 28-21 at home Friday night in the first round of the playoffs.
The Redmen led 21-0 in the second half, only to see the Miners storm back for a late win on a blocked punt returned for touchdown by Jack Lecher with less than 30 seconds to go.
“It really sucks, man. It sucks. Our o-line, our d-line, they were awesome, just not the best of luck this year,” Jade Bulloch said. “That’s life. I wouldn’t choose to be in another place, I’d always choose to be here in Cedar.”
In some ways, Friday’s game mirrored the Reds’ season: A strong start, followed by a run of of close losses.
They started strong, building a 21-0 lead thanks to a 22-yard touchdown catch by Derek Ball and a 23-yard score by Travis Tait.
Braden Garrett started at quarterback in place of the injured Mason Fakahua, who was dressed and on the sideline for the entire game but didn’t play until the final series.
Bulloch returned an interception for a touchdown to make it a 21-0 Redmen lead with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
But Park City was resilient, striking back with a 68-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Spencer Zur to receiver Collin Zur, then a 4-yard pass to Beau Pederson III.
Cedar’s defense pressured Spencer Zur all night, flushing the tall quarterback but often coming just sort of sacking him. Quaid Murray finally got to Zur on the last play of the third quarter to force a punt.
By that time, Cedar’s offense wasn’t able to sustain drives like it had been in the first half.
With less than three minutes left in the game, Zur’s 1-yard keeper capped a long scoring drive and tied the score at 21.
“I don’t even know what to say, I just feel bad for the kids. Hopefully we can try to find some positives in the year,” Cedar head coach Josh Bennett said.
The next, and final twist, to the game’s script came two minutes later on the blocked punt. Cedar couldn’t engineer a comeback and Park City wildly celebrated on the rain-soaked field.
In the first half, it appeared everything was going Cedar’s way.
The Redmen were getting the lucky breaks they hadn’t gotten all season, what with Fakahua’s knee injury, Drake Lewis’s season-ending elbow injury and the three region losses by a combined nine points.
As time expired in the first half, Zur found a wide-open Pederson streaking down the middle of the field.
He still had 30 yards to run to the end zone, and it took every Cedar defender getting a hand on Pederson to slow him down before Grant Richey tackled Pederson just short of the goal line to preserve a 7-0 halftime lead.
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr on Twitter @PatrickCarr_ and on Facebook at Facebook.com/PatrickJosephCarr1/ or call him at (435) 231-3834.