Not every memorable season ends in a championship.
Almost none of them do.
For a program, each season is about taking a step forward.
For the players, it is about lasting memories.
Gatesville’s season, which ended Friday with a 40-35 loss to Graham, will not be remembered for the one time they failed to come back and win the game late in the fourth quarter.
It will be for Sebastian Corrales’ 35-yard field goal in overtime to defeat Monahans and for Matthew Wallace’s two touchdown catches in the fourth quarter to get it to that point. It will be for Tyler Jaynes’ interception against Vernon as he stared up into the blinding sun.
UMHB’s season won’t be remembered for the last 20 points it gave up in the final 3:42 to Mount Union in the Division III semifinal Saturday.
For now, though, the players have to lick their wounds.
Losing always hurts. But, the joy of winning can’t come without knowing that the pain of losing will eventually strike.
“It’s not a good way to end my senior season,” said UMHB quarterback LiDarral Bailey, who was 9-of-19 for 113 yards to go with 24 rushing yards. “That’s the way it went, though. It doesn’t feel good.”
But a year from now it will.
Bailey made his mark at UMHB, setting almost every passing record at the school this season.
He even became a small, albeit cool, Twitter tread for “#LiDarraling.”
Bailey, a senior, took the snap at the 2-yard line, faked the handoff and rolled out to his right. However, Wesley College defenders were not fooled and one of them caught up with Bailey and got just enough of his feet to trip him up. Bailey then cemented his place in Mary Hardin-Baylor lore. As he was falling to the ground, Bailey flipped the ball to the end zone, about 17 feet high and over a defender, and into the waiting arms of sophomore receiver Caleb Moore.
Even though it looked like Bailey was down, a closer look shows he got rid of the ball while nearly parallel to the ground. The touchdown ended up being the go-ahead score as the Crusaders defeated Wesley, which had eliminated them the last two seasons, 32-20.
It was a play UMHB fans and alumni will be talking about for years.
It does not matter that, once again, the Crusaders could not win a national title, despite being ranked in the top five throughout the season. Sure, that’s the goal.
But only one team wins a national title. A select few win state titles.
Losses happen eventually for everyone else.
But every team has memories to hold on to. Even the 2012 Ellison Eagles, who went 0-10, have some good memories.
Gatesville and UMHB just have a lot more of them — wins do tend to do that for a team.
“We are extremely proud of these kids, they allowed our program to take the next step,” Gatesville coach Kyle Cooper said after his Hornets lost in the 3A quarterfinals. “It will be a team that will be remembered for a long time in Gatesville. It is rough right now, but I think down the road they will realize how special it is and what they’ve done.”
When the pain subsides both Gatesville and UMHB will do just that.
They will cherish the 13 wins and not the one loss. They will think back to the great moments and smile.
That’s when they will realize that greatness is not just achieved in championships.
It is held, instead, in the memories of the journey.