The words, like the night's victory, didn't come easily.
Old Mill football coach Pete Regala stood at the center of Pops Whayland Field in Glen Burnie Friday night, trying unsuccessfully to sum up the feelings that accompany a 4A Region IV championship, the first in the school's 16-year history.
His eyes were moist and his voice cracked. He shivered from the cold air that seemed twice as bitter now that the water cooler had been ceremoniously dumped over his head.
Pete Regala never felt better in his eight years as Old Mill coach.
"It's just an indescribable emotional experience," Regala said after his Patriots had rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit to down the Gophers, 16-7, and assure Old Mill of its first-ever playoff appearance.
For Regala, the 9-1 record the team carries into Friday night's state playoffs is only his second non-losing mark since 1984. Thinking about the postseason during that time wasn't always practical, but he said he never wavered.
"I don't think I ever gave up on it. I knew it was going to come sooner or later," he said.
"I said a few years back to some of these guys here who are seniors that I don't know how many more years I'm going to be coaching. I'd like to have a couple region and state championships, and these guys really came through. They showed a lot of pride and a lot of enthusiasm."
"It feels great," said senior quarterback Eric Scott. "The first team in Old Mill history to go to the playoffs. It feels awesome. The best record the school ever had -- 9-1. That's what we worked for all year, all the two-a-days, everything."
All that hard work could have gone for naught when senior running back William Beverly was carried off the field in the third quarter with the score tied, 7-7. He spent the rest of the evening with his sprained ankle heavily taped and elevated.
Beverly (29 carries, 85 yards) had scored his 20th touchdown of the season with 8 minutes, 58 seconds left in the quarter, equaling the county record held by Arundel graduate Troy Turner. But his night ended four minutes later, after a 1-yard run up the middle.
"We were pretty concerned," Scott said. "We wanted him in there so he could get the record, but I guess he'll get it next week. We just had to come out and play as hard as we could without him."
Regala said, "It was a tough spot to be in, but we do have other backs.
Boo's our catalyst, but we have some other good backs who can run the ball."
Old Mill's drive stalled after Beverly left, but sophomore Brian Jones intercepted a Carlton Ash pass two plays later and sprinted 21 yards for the go-ahead score.
Junior kicker Steve Oliver added a 33-yard field goal -- his first this year -- with 6:21 left in the game.
Beverly had been shaken up earlier after colliding with Jones while trying to cover Glen Burnie's Kyle Hackett on a third-down pass with 27 seconds remaining in the first half. Both Beverly and Jones went down at the Patriots' 18, and Hackett raced untouched to the end zone to complete a 46-yard pass play.
Daniel Whitmoyer kicked the extra point, and Old Mill trailed at halftime.
Regala "was a little upset, because he knew we could play better than that," said senior Troy Queen. "We just had to settle down. Glen Burnie's a good team. He just said to get our heads in the game and play like we know how to play."
Old Mill junior Rufus Beard had two interceptions, including one off of reserve quarterback David Lanham that stalled a Glen Burnie drive with 29 seconds left.