This story was first posted Nov. 24, 2012.
For Durant's season to remember, a tough loss in the second round of Class 7A-Region 2 FHSAA playoffs came in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, when a last-seconds push for a tying touchdown came up short at the Ron Frost Stadium in Plant City on Nov. 23.
The Cougars bowed to the Newsome Wolves, 14-21, but not before giving the Wolves something to worry about with a game-ending advance that fell short with an almost-caught incomplete pass in the end zone.
"They're a unique group of guys," said team chaplain Kerry Beaty, outside the Durant fieldhouse after the season-ending playoff game. "Probably one of the most unique group of players I've been around in the past 12 years."
What makes the 11-1 Durant Cougars, who ended the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record, so unique?
"They're family, they love each other, and they'll be okay," Bowden said. "It's going to hurt, but it will be okay."
In the fieldhouse, Beaty said head coach Mike Gottman addressed his players, telling them no words could make them feel better, with such a sour loss to stomach.
But 16 teams played that night, and only eight advanced. Durant was not alone.
The Cougars do, however, stand as the only team in school history to end the regular season with a perfect win record. And this year, the returning district champs advanced one round further in playoff action.
Gottman discussed all this with his players, then told them to "let the sting stay," according to Beaty, and to be sure to bring that sting back with them next year, in another bid for a state title.
"I think he handled [his post-game speech] as good as anybody could," Beaty said. "This is a game. At the end of the day, as hard as it hurts, it's still a game. But it's been a great ride."
Nearby, Gil Brown waited for his son, Cougar Gabriel "Gabe" Brown, to exit the fieldhouse for the long ride home.
Gabe Brown gave high praise to his coaches, his teammates, and to his head coach, Mike Gottman. "I can go [to them with any problem] and they have my back," Brown said. As for Gottman: "He's the first person who got me [to join the team]. He saw me back-pedaling in phys[ical] ed[ucation class]."
As for what's next, Gil Brown said, "We'll mourn for awhile and then we'll get right back to work and get ready for next year."
After each game, win or lose, the Durant Cougars line up to congratulate the opposing team, as is the tradition for all Hillsborough County school district teams. At Durant, the ritual goes a step further: The players line up and walk the length of the gate outside the home stands, slapping the hands of their fans. Then, at the end of the walk, they stand as a team as the Durant Cougar Marching Band plays the school's alma mater.
Looking on Nov. 23 was Pamela Bowden, principal of Durant High, who after the game congratulated the Newsome Wolves and both congratulated and consoled her Cougars. Long after the fans from both stands left the stadium, she was seen sitting with two Cougar players, sharing a pizza.
"I was proud of each of them," Bowden said about her school's record-breaking Cougars. This season, this game, she added, "They played their hearts out."
DURANT COUGARS 2012 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE / SCORESDate Opponent Field Score / Time Sept. 1 Freedom Freedom Win (57-7) Sept. 7 Alonso Durant Win (29-0) Sept. 21 Brandon Brandon Win (36-0) Sept. 28 Wharton Wharton Win (13-12) Oct. 5 Plant City Plant City Win (22-7) Oct. 12 Chamberlain Durant Win (49-0) Oct. 18 Newsome Durant Win (38-28) Oct. 26 East Bay East Bay Win (28-3) Nov. 2 Riverview Riverview Win (57-27) Nov. 9 King Durant Win (31-0) FHSAA Playoffs Nov. 16 Tampa Bay Tech Durant Win (34-7) Nov. 26 Newsome Durant Loss (14-21)