KIRKLAND – Hiawatha quarterback Mike Mercado and his senior teammates walked around the field after the last game of their high school careers, a 49-0 loss to Hope Academy, stopping at each corner, discussing memories from each season.
It was a tradition coach Sean Donnelly picked up years ago as a high school player. The group of seven discussed tough practices and big hits they remembered, they talked about going 0-9 their sophomore year and rebounding.
Their was no playoff berth to talk about – the Hawks started 3-1 in the past two seasons and finished 3-6. But the fact that the Hawks are heartbroken about not making the postseason shows growth in a program where missing the playoffs used to be an expectation.
Hope (7-2, 7-2 Northeastern Athletic Conference) opened the scoring when junior Lafayette McGrary ran for a 51-yard touchdown with 6:57 remaining in the first quarter, and it didn’t stop.
At halftime, the Hawks trailed 42-0.
“I was kind of disappointed with the way we came out,” Donnelly said. “With senior night, we had a lot of things going, I was hoping that would generate some energy with these guys. Unfortunately it didn’t. We struggled mightily throughout.”
So for the second straight season, Hiawatha (3-6, 3-6 NAC) played its last game without a playoff berth to play for. As a leader of a program that has built expectations, ending his career without a playoff berth was tough for Mercado.
“We all love each other,” Mercado said. “It’s hard to say goodbye and leave these guys.”