Grant DePalma walked back into the Prospect locker room with the disappointment most seniors have when their high school football careers end this way.
But Brent Pearlman was anything but disappointed to work with a player such as DePalma in what turned out to be the end of his Prospect coaching career Saturday night.
"A great kid," Pearlman said as he glanced toward DePalma. "A winner."
And a tough, do-whatever-he's asked player who epitomized an incredible era that came to an end with a 14-7 loss to Lake Zurich in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Especially considering the 12 years before Pearlman took over, Prospect won 15 games and four times ended a season without a victory.
In the dozen years Pearlman was in charge the Knights won 104 of 138 games and three times ended seasons clutching Class 7A state titles in Champaign.
"It's mind-blowing," DePalma said as he fought back tears. "I'm just so appreciative to be coached by him. I've learned so much from him and I'll never forget it for the rest of my life.
"What he's taught us will take us all to better places than just this."
And despite the unhappy ending, Pearlman was happy to go out with a team that also epitomized what he wanted to see when he started rebuilding a program that had never won a playoff game.
"These seniors brought back something that was missing at times, the Prospect hunger and courage to play no matter what was going on," Pearlman said. "I'm hugely appreciative I got to be there for that. The courage and attitude they played with, I'll take that any time in the world.
"It's really important to see kids develop into winners."
And that's why it was such a tough ending for DePalma and his teammates.
"We had the tools, we had the hunger and we had the courage," DePalma said. "I thought we had the hunger and courage to bring it all the way. That's why it hurts so much now.
"He (Pearlman) was almost like another one of the guys, another senior. The things he's done for us and what he brought back with the senior class is incredible."
The nature of a game that came down to the final minute didn't lend itself to a lot of sentimentality. But that's likely to really hit home in a couple of days.
"They worked extremely hard and they also had a lot of fun," Pearlman said. "On Monday, I will miss this team."
There will be endless speculation about what's next in Pearlman's plans. His brother joked after Saturday's game that he has no idea.
But one would figure this wasn't the final game of his coaching career. Not after he was asked if he would really take a hard look at the film of his last game at Prospect.
"I have to figure out what happened," Pearlman said with a smile.