Robert Delaney received an important phone call before the most important high school football game he would play for Loyola.
Delaney's older brother Paul was on the line with a late reminder of just how much was on the line in Saturday afternoon's Class 8A state semifinal with Glenbard North.
Paul Delaney was more than 800 miles away from Wilmette in New York City. The sophomore punter at Columbia University was on the bus to an Ivy League game with Brown.
But his mind wasn't far from where he was a couple of years ago and where Robert Delaney was now.
"To see him be so close and not be able to get it, and then last year …," Robert Delaney said of Loyola's semifinal losses. "He wanted to let me know that living with a life of regret is the worst thing. It was motivation to right his wrong."
Almost everything went right in the second half as Delaney, a senior all-Chicago Catholic League center who lives in Palatine, finally got to enjoy the celebration of Loyola's first trip to a state championship game in 18 years.
Not that it was easy as the unbeaten Ramblers had to overcome a 13-point halftime deficit to beat upset-minded Glenbard North 28-13. But it beat the last two endings at this same stage.
"There was a lot of motivation," said all-state linebacker and Barrington resident Eric Hauser, whose three older brothers attended Loyola. "It's great to finally get over the hump."
Hauser's fuel came from last year's semifinal loss where he wasn't able to make a key play late in the game on Maine South standout running back Paul Preston.
"I didn't pursue and didn't hustle the way I should have," Hauser said. "I'll remember it the rest of my life because I could have tackled him. Every play you have to give a full 100 percent."
It was clear the Ramblers were going to need that and more after a first half where their biggest deficit of the season could have been a lot worse.
The offense had only 60 yards. Even though Glenbard North's touchdown came on a bizarre punt return the defense wasn't quite as stifling as usual.
"They definitely did their jobs the entire first half," Delaney said of Glenbard North. "Offensively, each individual didn't really do his job. Obviously we haven't given up that many sacks and that killed us in the first half."
It was a different story in the second half as Hauser and the Ramblers' defense had Glenbard North at a loss eight times.
"It was all quiet in here," Hauser said in the school cafeteria where the defense meets at halftime. "I spoke up and said, 'Guys, we have to shut them out in the second half.' I knew the offense was going to be there."
Thanks in large part to Delaney, who was the only returning starter on the offensive line.
"Dominant," Hauser said of the second-half effort of Delaney, John Dixon, Philip Spagnolo, Sean Sanborn and Griffin Baumeister.
"Three of them had never played a down of varsity football," Delaney said. "We knew coming into the season we were looked at as the weak link of the team.
"In the offseason we did a lot together and took it to heart. The only way we were going to be successful is we were able to do our jobs as an offensive line."
And now Delaney, along with his younger brother, Patrick, Hauser and the Ramblers will be heading to Champaign next Saturday. They understand they are also carrying the hopes of a lot of others who came before them.
But it's also for themselves and the heartbreak they had experienced.
"Eric and I were motivated because we know how it felt to have battled and lost," Delaney said. "We haven't stopped working since a week after that game last year.
"We have one goal and that's not just to get to state. We got over that hump and now we want to win next week."