The tears flowed freely from the eyes of Garden City's Mark Ellis. "This hurts," he said between sobs. "Two years in a row."
Ellis, a member of the 2010 Trojans who lost to Bellport in the final minute in the Long Island Championships, was the team's leading rusher and receiver in Friday's 14-7 loss to Newfield in the L.I. Class II title game. His numbers were modest -- 10 carries for 25 yards and seven receptions for 23 yards -- thanks to a ferocious defensive effort by the Wolverines. "They were tough," he said.
His sadness was felt on another level. "It hurts so bad. We wanted to win so bad," said Ellis, a senior who finished with 997 yards rushing for the season.
Then he nodded toward the tall, gray-haired gentleman standing nearby, wearing his trademark Garden City baseball hat. "Playing for coach [Tom] Flatley . . . I'm so grateful to him for everything he's done for me."
Flatley, 72 and with 235 career victories, was influential in helping Ellis move into the home of his best friend, kicker Ryan Norton.
Ellis' mom, Tamie Williams; her husband, Michael Williams, and their children hugged and consoled Ellis after the game, as did Ryan's parents, Mike and Kristen Norton, who became Ellis' legal guardians on Christmas Eve 2009.
Ryan Norton, however, was inconsolable. He is a major Division I kicking prospect, with schools such as Syracuse and Georgia Tech actively recruiting him. But he had a short punt, a missed field goal and a blocked field goal Friday. Quiet to begin with, his only comment was, "I just feel bad."
Kristen Norton said of her son: "The emotional piece [of the equation] for him is that he doesn't speak. It's a tough loss. But when you play with passion and pride, you should still celebrate the season and they should hold their heads high."
And, as his mother said with a mom's understanding smile, "Now it's on to recruiting. There will be good times."
For Ellis, too. Among the schools recruiting him are Delaware and Monmouth. Since he moved in with the Nortons, his grades have improved dramatically. "I really believe that Mark has come so far," Kristen Norton said. "The loss? It really means nothing."
Mike Norton said Ryan's distress was not only the byproduct of a second straight agonizing loss in the Long Island Championships, it was the realization that something permanent had been left on the field at Hofstra Friday night.
"It's their last game together," he said.