Iona Pritchard choked back emotion and wiped away tears. His heartbreak had more to do with the last bus ride he was about to take with his Bingham teammates than it did the scoreboard.
"This isn't really a loss," he said of Bingham's semifinal loss to Alta 21-17 at Rice-Eccles Stadium Friday night. "We wanted to win because we wanted to make this season last as long as we can. Playing in this program has made me a better person. I don't know where I'd be without this program, without coach (Dave) Peck. That's the sadness."
His fellow senior captains agreed with that sentiment.
"I'm proud of our team," said Derek Tuimauga, who will play at Utah next season while his teammates, Prichard, kicker Justin Sorensen, and tight end Austin Holt have all committed to BYU. "It's always hard to lose, but it's fun playing against a team like Alta. Give it to them; they played great."
Peck said the Hawks came out with a little more fire and that amounted to a 21-10 lead in the first half for Alta.
"Alta came out and really got after us," he said. "They really had a chip on their shoulder. We felt we had the team that would step up and deal with that ... In fact, that's what we talked about at halftime. I told them, 'I know you have a lot more substance than we're showing right now'."
The Miners did come out and play a much better second half, with the defense holding Alta scoreless. But Bingham had a couple of missed opportunities, including an interception that didn't count due to a roughing the passer penalty.
"Those were key plays," Peck said. But like his players, he was focused on more than just the game's final score.
"I can live with defeat," he said. "I know what our program is about. The wins and the losses take care of themselves. I care more about the journey."
He gathered his players around him immediately after the loss and told them how proud he was of the men they'd become.
"I love every one of you and I'm proud of you," he said. "We battled our butts off, right to the end. Don't walk out of here with your head down."
Holt said the Hawks' quick start was tough to overcome, but he credited Bingham's defense for leading the charge back into the game."We didn't give up," Holt said. "We got up, but it was a little too late ... I've learned a lot playing football. Coach Peck has taught us how to be better men, and ultimately that's the most important thing."