MOUNT PLEASANT — Losses like this one don’t get much tougher for any team, let alone for relative playoff newcomers like Whitesboro.

MOUNT PLEASANT — Losses like this one don’t get much tougher for any team, let alone for relative playoff newcomers like Whitesboro.


The Bearcats went from the highest of highs — tying the game against New Boston with less than a minute left — to the lowest of lows — giving up a 44-yard touchdown from Aaron Conkleton to Jeff Gladney with 13.6 seconds left — and a storybook season came to a close just like that on Friday night in a 14-7 Class 2A Division I area-round loss at Sam Parker Field.


Whitesboro head coach Eddie Gill kept a brave face as a cold drizzle and a biting north wind further dampened the mood.


"Any loss is bad," Gill said. "But to fight back like that and all the adversity we’d had, the turnovers and kids getting injured … I felt like we’d get it into overtime. It’s disappointing. I don’t know what else to say."


Despite the loss, the Bearcats set some high-water marks for their program this season: Ten victories, an outright district championship, and a chance to play in the area round after their first football playoff win ever.


A steady cold drizzle blown upon 20-mph north winds made playing conditions tough for both teams, but New Boston was able to hit on some big pass plays at the end of each half. Conkleton completed only four passes, but each of them was for a big play, with a TD pass to Jawaun Johnson near the end of the first half as well as the game-winner to Gladney.


On the other hand, Whitesboro (10-2) fumbled the football eight times in the elements, losing five of them, and that made a huge difference.


"We turned the ball over too much," Gill said. "We were down here deep and we turned the ball over. We’d get a drive going and turn the ball over."


Collin Kilcrease carried 21 times for 79 yards in his final high-school game, ending his career with 4,005 yards and falling just short of the school record for career rushing yards. Kilcrease also had five catches for 34 yards and added an interception on defense.


Two key knee injuries within two plays of each other to senior Cody Ford and junior Dustin Roberds left the Bearcats shorthanded in the third quarter.


"Our game plan kind of went out the window when Cody Ford got hurt," Gill said. "The weapons we had were Collin, Collin and Collin."


And Kilcrease came through on Whitesboro’s last desperate chance to pull even.


The Bearcats drove 62 yards on eight plays, with a short toss from Kyle Lynn to Kilcrease resulting in a 28-yard gain to the 2. From there, Lynn took it in on a sneak with a strong second effort with 59.5 seconds left.


New Boston called a time out to ice kicker Atticus Kilcrease, but his extra point was good and the game was knotted at 7-7.


The only problem: There was still time left for the Lions to try to avoid overtime. And a kickoff that went out of bounds gave New Boston the ball at its own 30 with no time going off the clock.


Two strong gains by fullback Keith Baldwin put New Boston in Whitesboro territory at the 39, but Conkleton was sacked for a loss of five, forcing the Lions to call their final timeout with 22.9 seconds left.


On the next play, Conkleton threw in the flat to Gladney, who juked his way past three Bearcat defenders and, to the horror of a large Whitesboro crowd, broke into the open for the 44-yard touchdown with 13.6 seconds left.


"We had what we call a ‘hatchet’ call where we go up and press (the receiver)," Gill said. "We figured that they might try to come to him. We pressed him, we came over the top of him, and we were there and just missed the tackle. The coverage was good, it was the right call. They made a play and we didn’t."


Trailing 7-0 at the half, the Bearcats had several opportunities to tie the game, but each time a critical fumble would thwart them.


Whitesboro got the ball at the New Boston 4-yard line on a bad punt snap late in the third quarter, but a bad pitch resulted in a loss of 14 and the Bearcats had to settle for a field-goal attempt. Lynn, the holder, couldn’t get the placement down, and his pass was intercepted.


The Bearcats mounted a drive in the fourth quarter and crossed midfield, but a fumble at the New Boston 44 with 4:50 left stopped that drive.


Finally, with 3:01 left, the Bearcats forced a punt and took over at their own 38 to set up the game-tying march.


New Boston (11-1) also missed a couple of opportunities to score. A touchdown pass play of 57 yards was wiped out by an illegal-formation penalty in the second quarter to keep the game scoreless; and running back Quinn Dedmon, who finished the game with 151 rushing yards, had the ball punched out of his grip at the 1-yard line and the ball went out of the end zone, resulting in a Whitesboro touchback.


"I was proud that we hung in there," Gill said. "It was everybody; it wasn’t just one guy. Everybody hung in there and we kept fighting. For it to end like that was really disappointing. We were already talking about what we were going to call on the overtime coin toss and all that stuff. We just didn’t make a tackle."


Whitesboro will graduate a senior class that is among the winningest in school history, with 24 victories over the last three seasons.


"Their job’s not done," Gill said. "Their job is to mentor and motivate these young guys. We’ve got a good group coming back. We’ve got four of our starting line back and good running backs in (Jake) Dyer and (Josh) Durrett. We’ve got some guys who can catch the ball. We’ll have to develop a quarterback, but our JV kids are pretty solid. We played good defense all year long, so I don’t see that changing.


"We’ve got a good foundation, a good base. Now we go to work. We’ve got to get a little better to beat teams like New Boston."