High school football: Costly semifinal mistakes can't diminish what Titans accomplished this season
"East is great; they work hard and you can see it in the way they play," Meier said. "They've got a lot of playmakers. ... It was an honor to play someone like East. They weren't in our region but we always kept our eye on them. ... To stick with them for the first half is just awesome and it just shows what we can do. And they second half shows what East can do. They're playmakers and they work hard."
Coach Whitehead agreed with that assessment of the power-packed Leopards (13-0), who came into Thursday's semifinal averaging 51.5 points per game this season and a whopping 58 ppg over its previous seven wins.
"That's a really good football team, and we hung with 'em and we played well against 'em," said Whitehead, who coached at East High from 2003-07. "Our defense did, and I wish our offense would've — I didn't do a good enough job preparing them. I feel terrible about that. But I'll tell you what, their defense did an outstanding job and you play against a team like that, you can't make the mistakes we made.
"The worst saying ever, and it's one that I refuse to say is 'What if?' And we don't want to play a game of 'What ifs.' We chalk this up to experience and these young men, I'll tell you what, they've faced adversity all year long and they've come out on top the majority of the time.
"And they're going to have experiences in life when they're going to face adversity again as fathers, and they won't back down," he said, his voice shaking with emotion. "I'm proud of them."