The Gervais football team’s surprising run to the playoffs ended Friday night as the Cougars were eliminated from the first round of the 3A state tournament in a 49-0 route at the hands of the No. 2 Harrisburg Eagles.

“We were really excited about it, and it was a great experience for all of us,” said Gervais coach Duane Riddell. “Obviously the ending wasn’t what we wanted for us, but I was really proud of the kids. I thought they played hard and they showed a lot of class.”

The Cougars (2-7, 2-4 West Valley) entered Friday’s playoff game riding high after a two-game win streak to end the regular season thrust the team into the playoffs for the first time since the Truman Administration.

“It meant a great deal to those seniors, and you know what, they were very classy,” said Riddell. “They worked extremely hard this year. They have improved a great deal since their sophomore year, not only in football but as people.”

The team entered the post-season tournament as the second-lowest seeded team, drawing a road game at Harrisburg High School against the Eagles’ top-ranked defense.

Harrisburg showed why its team owns the state’s best defense, as they held the Cougars to just 56 yards of total offense.

It was the first time in 17 games in which Gervais was held scoreless, dating back to the opening of the 2012 season, which was also against Harrisburg. In that time span, the Cougars went nearly two years between victories.

“When we were 0-6, somebody said, ‘Oh I bet you can’t wait until this season is over,’” said Riddell. “I thought about it and I said, ‘no, I really like these kids. These are great kids.’ They’re fun to be around. They never quit.”

Now in his third season with the Cougars, Riddell has seen many of the team’s graduating seniors grow throughout the years into team leaders. Gervais will lose nine seniors this year to graduation. Riddell said he’ll always look fondly on this year’s team for their positive attitude and ability to persevere through a season that was difficult at times.

“That’s the thing I’ll remember about them,” said Riddell. “I’ll be sitting on the old porch in a rocking chair – probably at an old folk’s home in five years – but I will always remember how much I like and appreciate these kids. I respect them.”

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