Upper Dublin’s loss ends more than just ’15 season

FRANCONIA >> It was like any of the countless number of scenes viewed after a meaningful scholastic athletic contest.

Tears were being spilled on one side of the field, pictures of mugging athletes were being snapped on the other.

Upper Dublin High’s football team came up two victories short of a state championship, and saw its magical season crash to the ground following a 30-14 loss to Parkland Saturday afternoon in the PIAA Class AAAA Semifinal Playoff game at Souderton Area High School.

And yes, there were tears, even some groans from the vanquished players, along with parents seeking to explain to their sons that there will be a long life and plenty of sunny days still ahead.

It’s inevitable. One team has to win, one has to lose.

But in Cardinals head coach Bret Stover’s mind, this one hurt a little more than usual.

These weren’t kids he saw for four or five months on a football field and then once in a while in the school hallways.

These were young men he literally watched grow up, often under the roof of his own house. They were friends of his son Ryan, but they were also like another set of sons.

In every coach’s mind, every team is special for the season he or she is coaching them. And sometimes beyond.

For the Cardinals coach, this one has been special for the past decade.

“They’re not only the best football team to ever play at Upper Dublin, they’re great people,” Stover said. “On the surface, they brought football back to this school when it wasn’t taken seriously for years.

“But they also showed what a group of kids can do who are good friends, and that friendship is extended to the playing field.”

For the coach’s son and starting quarterback Ryan Stover, it was the end of a scholastic playing career, but it was also the last time he would play football with many of his life-long friends.

“My dad’s a football coach so I’ve been coming to football fields since I was seven years old,” Stover said. “This was special, I’m going to miss coming to work every day.”

With those words, the quarterback and team leader broke down, but quickly regained his composure.

“We had a great year, but nobody around here is shocked that we did what we did,” Stover said. “We expect to win every game we play, but that’s always been something we’ve felt we could do. It’s all been said, how small we were, how we didn’t belong, we’ve heard that all year.

“But some of us have been playing together since kindergarten. We knew what we could do.”

For some, there will be other sports to play this year. Stover will transition to a basketball season that’s already begun.

Some, like defensive back/receiver Michael Sowers will soon be playing their primary sport. In his case, that’s lacrosse, a sport he will be playing next year at Princeton University.

But he won’t soon forget this season with his best friends.

“You can’t take anything away from our effort,” Sowers said. “This has been so special. I loved being a part of this.

“Every game and every practice was fun because I was playing with my brothers.

“Our goal was to take this program where it’s never been before, and that’s what we did.

“And I’m so proud of that.”

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