Between the tears, the troika that led Desert Ridge on another amazing run had faith that this would be the year.
"We thought that we matched up with Hamilton better than any other team in the state," said Jaguars quarterback Parker Rasmussen. "So we thought if anyone was going to take them down it was going to be us. So we gave it our best shot."
The Jaguars, state runners-up a year ago, got its third crack at Hamilton in their last 14 games. But Desert Ridge got beaten again, rallying late to make it close, 31-21, in the Division I semifinals Friday night at Chandler.
"I'm not saying we have a rivalry with Hamilton because we haven't beat them," Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. "But it's a fun battle with them and I am looking forward to future things to come and best of luck to Hamilton."
While the perennial powerhouse Huskies are headed to the state final again, Desert Ridge, in less than a decade, has set the bar for successful program in far east Mesa.
"We had all those mistakes and still had a shot at the end of the game," Hathcock said. "We're close. The thing is our kids battle and the future at Desert Ridge is extremely bright."
"It's a growing program," Rasmussen agreed. "There are a lot of new guys coming in and they will have a good team next year."
"We've obviously set a tone for everything," said multi-hyphenate Jordan Becerra. "Hopefully in the years to come I hope they can step up and find some playmakers."
The Jaguars have done it the last two years with the triple-option attack of Rasmussen, Becerra and Joey Counts. Counts is the only full-time tailback, in a fullback's body. Becerra is a wideout who has played quarterback when Rasmussen was hurt. And Rasmussen will go out wide in a change up.
Desert Ridge's first score on Friday night was gadget play with wide receiver Rudy Jimenez hitting Rasmussen on a 16-yard pass in the first quarter.
But Rasmussen, Becerra and Counts are all seniors.
"They are three-year starters," Hathcock said. "Parker was incredible tonight. He almost led our team back. This was his moment and I thought he did a great job. He is great to have around. Jordan is one of those kids - I've never seen a harder worker. He's probably the toughest kid I have ever had. And Joey - how do you replace a bull like that."
Despite the obvious disappointment, Hathcock brightened at thoughts of 2012.
"Four of our five offensive linemen are coming back, that's pretty good," Hathcock said. "We have an incredible JV (junior varsity) class coming up and our freshmen class was unreal and I feel good about our future."
Rasmussen came to the party as a junior last year but fit right in.
"I came here after my sophomore year at Highland," he said. "They just welcomed me and I felt so loved the first day that I got here so it was great to be part such a great group of guys. They will be my friends forever."
Maybe that's why the tears were flowing. Too much for Counts, who deferred to Becerra.
Rasmussen seemed to be a bit more composed, as he was during the game Friday.
"We made a couple of big mistakes and they made some adjustments," said Rasmussen. "And then at halftime we made adjustments back and that's why we were successful in the second half."
"We were just going to play ball," Becerra said. "We weren't going to do something super crazy. You can only do so much. They just came out on top."