When it was all over Saturday, head coach John Allen wanted to savor every moment.
His Lock Haven football team had just beaten visiting Cheyney 15-7 to finally snap a 52-game losing streak, and Allen wasn’t about to head to the locker room.
He and his players lingered on the field as long as possible, watching the fans pull down both goalposts at Hubert Jack Stadium in Lock Haven, Pa., and celebrate the team's first victory since Nov. 10, 2007 -- a span of exactly five years.
“I don’t think anybody went to the locker room until well after it was over,” Allen said Monday. “The atmosphere, really you would have thought we won a national championship or something. It was just amazing. The energy of everybody was great. It was just fun to be a part of.”
That the victory came on senior day in the last game of the season -- when 13 players who had never experienced a win were playing their last collegiate football game -- made it even sweeter, said Allen, whose record in two years at Div. II Lock Haven (Pa.) had been 0-20.
“I was just grateful for them to have that experience,” he said. “That’s something, through all the ups and downs, that’s going to be the one thing that they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”
The 52-game losing streak is a record for Division II football and was the longest active streak in the nation.
How long had it been? When the Bald Eagles last won, in their final game of the 2007 season, a sophomore quarterback at Florida named Tim Tebow was on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. UCLA has had time to fire and/or hire head coaches Karl Dorrell, DeWayne Walker, Rick Neuheisel and Jim Mora.
It seemed like a lifetime for seniors such as Jarrett Kratzer, who experienced all 52 losses. He came to Lock Haven in 2008. He saw the first game of the streak as a redshirt freshman and saw it come to an end in his final game.
Kratzer, who started at quarterback Saturday, said he got caught up with the students who stormed the field after the victory.
“It got very chaotic, actually, with all the students rushing the field,” he said. “It felt fulfilling to have that opportunity, especially in the last game. We had no more chances as seniors. To experience that for one time in your whole college career, there’s nothing more I could ask for.”
Allen, who brought his “Don’t flinch” mantra to the Bald Eagles, said though his players absorbed defeat after defeat, they never gave up.
As this season wore on, he could tell they were getting close. After losing their first three games 55-0, 31-0 and 42-0, the Bald Eagles improved. There were close losses in recent weeks to Gannon and Mercyhurst, and on Oct. 20 Clarion scored on the last play of the game to beat Lock Haven 30-28.
“We had several opportunities to up a ‘W’ up on the board, and we knew it could come,” Allen said. “It was just a matter of when.”
Now, Allen and Lock Haven go into the offseason with the losing streak dead and a new optimism.
“Any coach, any level, any sports team, you want to end the season with a win,” he said. “You want to go into the offseason with momentum, feeling good about yourself.”
Lock Haven also has plenty of time to shop for two new goalposts.
“They are gone,” Allen said, laughing. “I guess that’s a good problem to have.”