The clock was under a minute, and Heidelberg was down 14 to Wittenberg in the Division III playoffs at Frost Kalnow Stadium.
A loss to the Tigers was all but assured, and the home side of the stands - which were packed and filled with loud fans - was quiet.
As I made my trek back up to the press box from the sidelines, there was plenty of disappointment, an understanding that this season, this 9-2, playoff-qualifying season, was about to end.
Then I heard this:
"It's not over. If we get a touchdown and recover an onside kick, we can tie this game!"
Wittenberg ended Heidelberg's season, but couldn't end its hope.
And that's what people will remember about 2012. When the days pass, when the frustration subsides, when the big picture becomes clear:
The program has turned it all around.
It's not just about the history. None of the players on Saturday's roster were part of the 2006 team that went 0-10. Only four assistant coaches remain from that year.
People who follow this program now expect it to win every week. That's a far cry from even two years ago, when HU was 5-5, still in the middle of the Ohio Athletic Conference standings.
Heidelberg has won every game but two held in Tiffin over the last two seasons. It has done
it with a strong defense, a tough running game and big plays from the passing game.
I'm not trying to put a positive spin on Saturday's loss. I'm sure the players feel like they should have won. Any game where a team leads 28-6 and 31-13 should make a team comfortable of victory. When it didn't happen, fans and even players seemed more stunned than anything.
It was tough seeing the players, who had so much to celebrate at times during the game, have to accept a stunning season-ending defeat.
Heidelberg has become a team that expects to win, and it has a fan base that expects to win.
And it showed with a huge crowd, most dressed in orange.
"It was phenomenal just to see the amount faculty as well as student and community support that we had," said linebacker Craig Sykes, a senior. "We've definitely seen our impact on this community and what we've done. How they know us now, how they recognize us now compared to four years ago."
Six years ago, the Student Princes played in front of family and a few others at Frost-Kalnow Stadium. When they moved their home games on campus for the second half of the 2009 season, the attitude had changed, and the crowds were bigger.
But it was nothing like Saturday.
"Last year and certainly this year, it's been resounding," Heidelberg coach Mike Hallett said, "how unbelievably great the Tiffin, but also the Seneca County, community has been, and really rallied around us. Today was unbelievable."
Looking at the roster, its easy to think that Heidelberg will be back near the top of the league for years to come. Star running back Cartel Brooks is a sophomore. Bryan Lacey, his backup who has run for more than 350 yards in the last two weeks, is a freshman. Quarterback Michael Mees is a sophomore. Derek Hug, who caught three touchdown passes Saturday, is a sophomore. Ben Poirier, a star defensive lineman, is also a sophomore, while Chadd Williamson (who injured himself Saturday in the second half) is a junior.
But success is never a guarantee, no matter how much potential there is for it. Gary McKillip, a member of the 1972 Stagg Bowl championship team, said earlier this week that Heidelberg's players expected to be as good in 1973, but injuries caused them to go 6-3.
But senior Justin Suddeth, a defensive back, managed to be both reflective and optimistic just minutes after his career ended.
"We came in with a goal, and the goal was to help turn this program around," Suddeth said. "Four years we went 4-6, 5-5, 8-3, now 9-2 ... We can't wait to see what's ahead."
The loss Saturday will sting for the players, coaches and fans for a while. But perhaps it's just a setback for a program that will continue to rise.
Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.
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