DEKALB — Aaron Inda's three-touchdown day was a near-storybook finish to his senior season.
The book would have been complete with a win, but his journey to DeKalb was a tale of perseverance.
Last season, Inda suffered a concussion in a win against Athens, then tore his ACL in his first game back.
He didn't plan to play football this season, but his performance at state was a key reason the Trojans came down to the wire.
“It’s a good feeling,” Inda said of his game. “Last year it was hard watching every playoff game at state. It was difficult. It’s a good feeling, but a ring definitely would have made it better.”
His primary sport is track, where he went to the state finals last season.
Maroa junior Max Davenport broke free from a GCMS defender and reeled in a pass from quarterback Ian Benner with 57 seconds left in the first quarter for a touchdown.
It was a big moment for Davenport, who lost his grandfather Oct. 29.
But the score still felt empty.
“It was nice, but we had a lot of good drives going,” he said. “I wish we could have kept scoring, but we just couldn’t finish on all of them. It’s nice to score in state but it wasn’t really what I wanted.”
Mitchell leaves game
Fresh off of his three interception game against Shelbyville in the Class 2A semifinals, Maroa safety Hayden Mitchell left the game near the end of the third quarter with an injury.
In fact, he would have drawn the assignment on Bryce Barnes, who pulled in the game-winning touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
It's no guarantee that Mitchell would have made a stop, but it would have given the Trojans a full deck of cards.
The bigger problem came with stopping the run-heavy GCMS offense.
“We lost Hayden Mitchell, our safety, at the start of the fourth quarter,” Jostes said.” It should have been his guy who scored the game-winning touchdown. It’s tough.
“It starts with the two running backs — they’re very physical. I don’t think the boys saw anything they didn’t expect to see. D runs his butt off and he ran his butt off today. You can see with the size of those guys that their pretty good size high school backs.”
The senior class of Maroa has been to the state championship game three out of the last four seasons.
It was a tough way to go out for the class, but it's also a near unprecedented run of success.
While the class offered major contributions for Maroa this season, the Trojans still return Benner, a 6-3 sophomore quarterback.
Maroa senior Deondre Gregory played in his 53rd varsity game for the Trojans.
He did everything he could for Maroa behind the mammoth offensive line.
“Our offensive line, they showed up again,” Gregory said. “They were physical and did their job. I told them all week, ‘The game is going to be determined by you guys.’ They did their thing, I congratulate them. I can’t do what I do without any of them. It’s all to them, pretty much. I didn’t do anything. I just ran the ball.”
Hoel gets his chance
Buried in the Class 1A loss to Lena-Winslow was Dalton Hoel, the Tuscola senior who played in his 50th game for the Warriors and found the end zone on a 4-yard pass in the third quarter.
After suffering three heartbreaking playoff losses before making state as a senior, Hoel finally got his chance on the big stage.
But he didn't have much time to think about the accomplishment.
“At that point, you don’t really have time to sit and reflect on it,” Hoel said. “It was like, OK, down by one touchdown now. Let’s get back and kick the ball. When you sit there and it happens, you don’t really think about it. You think about the game and the process and think about the next play.”
It stung on Friday, but the chance for the Tuscola seniors to finally get to the state championship was huge for the community.
In a bigger sense, it was hard to not be happy for Hunter Woodard, the Oklahoma State-bound lineman.
He came up with nine tackles, one for a loss, and held strong on the offensive line against the Lena-Winslow defensive line.
Immediately after the game, there was no doubt the loss stung, but he now has hardware to leave high school with.
“It's hard to see through right now,” Woodard said. “Nobody likes to lose, especially us with how far we made it. I mean, we got second place. In a couple hours looking back on it we will be happy or happier.”