EAST LAKE — Artavis Scott sobbed in Mason Cole's arms. George Campbell trudged off the field, his head low. Tears fell as East Lake High coach Bob Hudson guided his football team into the locker room for the last time this season.
The Eagles' first state semifinal appearance ended in a 31-24 overtime loss to Class 7A powerhouse Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer on Friday night.
Players were enveloped in silent agony, each wondering why the team had come so close, rallying from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the score in regulation only to come up short in overtime on the biggest stage of their football lives.
"It's upsetting because we were so close," said Scott, still wiping away tears. "Even when we were down two scores, I knew we could come back. When we tied it, I thought we were going to win."
It was Scott who ignited the Eagles (13-1) early.
On their third drive, Scott lined up at tailback and rushed five times for 56 yards, including a 3-yard run for a touchdown to give East Lake a 7-0 lead.
The Panthers (14-0) quickly answered as Daniel Parr hit Johnnie Dixon on a 75-yard touchdown pass to tie.
In the first half, Parr picked apart the Eagles, finishing 11-of-11 for 172 yards and a touchdown. One of his completions was a 47-yarder to Ezra Saffold that set up a 33-yard field goal by Peyton Shapiro to put the Panthers up 10-7 in the second quarter.
Parr's first incompletion came on fourth down on Dwyer's first possession of the third quarter. East Lake took advantage on a drive that was kept alive on a 29-yard pass from Jake Hudson to Dillon Zettwuch on third and 24. It eventually ended on a 33-yard field goal from Daniel Lacamera to tie the score at 10.
In the fourth quarter, Parr hit Dixon on a 38-yard scoring pass to give the Panthers a 17-10 lead.
The Eagles seemed to self-destruct after that with Hudson throwing an interception that was returned 33 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-10.
That's when East Lake made a furious rally. Scott was the catalyst for the comeback, throwing a 65-yard touchdown off a trick play to Campbell to make it 24-17.
On Dwyer's next possession, Scott intercepted a pass and returned it to the 9-yard line. On fourth and goal from the 11, Hudson connected with Devin Abraham on a touchdown pass, sending the game into overtime.
On Dwyer's first possession of the extra period, Parr ran 3 yards off a botched play for a score to go up 31-24.
East Lake had its chance on offense. But on third down, Hudson threw an interception to end the game.
Parr finished 20-of-28 for 301 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Dixon, a deep threat who had four catches for 124 yards and two scores.
But East Lake showed some resiliency, stopping Dwyer twice on downs and forcing the Panthers to punt four times.
The Eagles finish with a school-record 13 victories and played in their first state semifinal.
"I was a little worried when we got down, but this team showed so much to come back from that," Hudson said. "It turned to be a great game, and people got their money's worth.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team, especially the seniors."
Bob Putnam can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @BobbyHomeTeam.