Windsor - The sense of finality never gets easier, not even after all these years coaching high school football for Mike Emery, who made sure he hugged every one of his players Wednesday night in a sullen Fitch locker room.
A very good season for the eighth-seeded Falcons ended with tears after a 38-7 loss to No. 1 Windsor in the Class L state tournament quarterfinals. Fitch finished 8-3.
It was likely Emery's last game as Fitch's coach. Emery, one of the school's assistant principals, is expected to retire some time in the offseason.
Emery was more interested in his players, however, Wednesday.
"It's always hard, especially for the seniors who poured everything into it," Emery said. "It's a weird thing spending that much time together with the group of people and then they're basically gone."
They're gone mostly because of five turnovers, on which Windsor scored five touchdowns. Windsor quarterback Robert Quinn Fleeting completed 20 of 28 passes for 305 yards and four scores. Fleeting, the son of Windsor coach Rob Fleeting, ran for two other touchdowns, accounting for all six Windsor scores.
"He's really good," Emery said. "He's a typical coach's son in the sense that he has good awareness and he's smart. On top of that, he's really athletic."
It took the Warriors (10-0) until late in the first half to score. But they scored 19 points in the final 4:40 of the first half to take a 19-0 lead at halftime.
"Sometimes," coach Fleeting said, "you try to use the whole playbook instead of focusing on one thing. (Plus), Fitch is a solid program with tough kids."
Fitch's Bobby Johnston ran for a 74-yard touchdown with 6:22 left in the third period, giving Fitch some hope. But after the defense held, Windsor intercepted Fitch quarterback Devante Anderson for the third time and responded with a score. Windsor's defense finished with four interceptions.
"I thought we had a chance," Emery said. "Usually, we play defense with our offense. But we were unable to get first downs and that's a credit to them."
Johnston ran for 105 yards to lead the Fitch offense.
"All year long our offense has put up big numbers," coach Fleeting said. "But our defense held them down for us tonight."
Emery, the most successful coach in Fitch history, is 16th on the state career coaching list with 195 wins. His teams at Montville and Fitch made the state playoffs seven times. They won six conference championships, two state championships and earned the state's No. 1 ranking in 2000.
Emery spent seven seasons at Montville before taking the Fitch job before the 1992 season. He resigned in 2003 at Fitch and was hired again in 2008. He went 59-37-1 at Montville, leading the Indians to the 1985 state championship game, before a 136-44-1 mark at Fitch. He is 195-81-2 overall.