Sometimes, the biggest feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment can come when one least expects it.
Heading into the 2011 football season, the Thayer Bobcats certainly looked like a team that might be in store for a re-building year.
After all, the Cats lost virtually their entire starting offensive line, their starting quarterback and leading rusher from a year ago.
So to say Thayer was faced with a healthy amount of "unknowns" as it readied for the new season would be valid.
But somewhere along the way, this group of Bobcats decided this would not be a re-building year.
Instead, Thayer won its fifth straight district title and also came very close to winning a South Central Association championship this season.
And while the Bobcats' season ended with a 52-21 setback to Valle Catholic at Louis Bozman Stadium in the Class 1 Sectionals, that loss does not diminish the fact that this was the fifth consecutive year that Thayer had made it to the second round of the state tournament.
Not too bad for a squad that had to break in two new quarterbacks, a new featured running back and also play four freshmen on the offensive line this year.
And Thayer (9-3) certainly had its chances against the defending state champion Valle Catholic Warriors (11-1), a team that knocked the Bobcats out of the playoffs last year.
The Warriors got huge games out of running back Cory Kertz and quarterback Michael Wehner against Thayer. Kertz rushed for 148 yards, while Wehner rushed for 92 and passed for another 219 in the state sectionals.
Valle Catholic's running game was fueled by a mammoth wall of offensive linemen, four of whom are headed to play college ball.
A fumble ended Thayer's first possession of the night and, three plays later, Valle Catholic had its first touchdown on a 13-yard scamper from Wehner at the 10:10 mark of the first.
A big play on special teams led to Thayer's first score of the evening.
Forced to punt after a three-and-out, Valle Catholic couldn't cleanly field the kick, and Dylan Dennis recovered the football at the Warrior 23-yard line.
Jeremy Cabrales smashed his way across the goal line from 14 yards out at the 6:37 point for the Cats' first TD. Cabrales then booted the extra-point to square things at 7-all.
Valle Catholic moved in front, thanks to Trevor Klump's 46-yard touchdown burst right up the middle of the field with 4:22 left in the first. The extra-point eased the Warriors on top 14-7 after one.
Valle Catholic struck again early in the second on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Wehner to Alec Greminger at the 9:55 mark.
Needing to keep pace, the Bobcats did just that with probably their most complete drive of the game, one covering 80 yards in 11 plays.
That march was capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Childers to Austin Henry with 4:31 left until the half. The PAT was wide of the mark, but Thayer had pulled within 21-13.
The Warriors hit paydirt on their first series of the third quarter, using an 11-yard QB keeper from Wehner to extend the lead to 28-13 at the 10:03 mark.
Thayer's next possession ended with a fumble and Valle Catholic quickly cashed that miscue into points.
Kevin Abts hit a 26-yard field goal with 7:25 left in the third to boost the Warriors' advantage to 31-13.
But the home team wasn't yet done.
Connor Blair ripped off a nifty 27-yard touchdown run on third-and-11 to keep Thayer's hopes alive. Childers found Cabrales for the 2-point conversion pass and Thayer was just down 10, 31-21, after three.
Then Valle Catholic slammed the door shut in the game's last 12 minutes.
Wehner scored on a pair of runs -- one from 7 yards out, the other from a yard out -- to push the visitors ahead 45-21.
Wehner then capped Valle Catholic's victory by tossing an 18-yard touchdown pass to Klump with 1:17 left in the game, rounding out the Warriors' 52-21 win over Thayer.