As he hugged teammates, Middlebury's Jakob Trautwein broke down just minutes after the conclusion of Friday night's anticipated clash with South Burlington
But that was after Trautwein spent 48 minutes breaking down the Rebels' defense.
Trautwein carried the ball 23 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns, the driving force in the Tigers' 42-20 victory over the Rebels in a battle of the last pair of Division I high school football unbeatens.
"It was really emotional ... the last regular-season game on our home field, tons of fans out here to see us," Trautwein said. "I wanted to give them everything we got."
And he did. Scoring on TD runs of 33, 1, 59 and 8 yards -- three of which resulting from South Burlington turnovers -- an emotional Trautwein delivered in a battle of the division's top teams.
"He gets fired up and he's matured through the years here at Middlebury," said Middlebury coach Dennis Smith, whose team improves to 7-0. "He has just come out this year with a great attitude, ready to play football and he's having a hell of a time."
Tanner Contois piled up 256 yards on 27 carries, including an 80-yard TD, and also collected 56 receiving yards and another score, but the Rebels (6-1) couldn't overcome three interceptions and a fumble that led to four Middlebury touchdowns.
"That's what it boiled down to. They are a good team and we are just going to have to regroup from this and watch film," South Burlington coach Joe McDonald said. "I told the kids at the end there that we need to stay together.
"Hopefully we get an opportunity to play them again."
Down 14-13 late in the second quarter, Middlebury scored right before halftime -- Trautwein on a 1-yard dive -- and then struck for three more scores after the break, all off Rebel turnovers. In that stretch, Middlebury tallied 29 unanswered points.
"We didn't turn the ball over and they did turn the ball over. It was huge," Smith said. "We bend, but we didn't break and we held tough defensively."
On its third play from scrimmage, Middlebury pounced for the opening score with quarterback Austin Robinson racing untouched for an 88-yard TD. Later in the quarter, the Rebels had the ball at the Middlebury 2, but Contois fumbled and the ball bounced into the end zone, where Robinson covered it up.
Middlebury marched down the field on an 11-play drive that featured 10 rushes. Trautwein had six of those carries, his 33-yard scamper capping the series for a 13-0 lead just seven seconds into the second quarter.
Contois responded on the Rebels' next offensive play, slipping between the tackles and zooming up the middle for an 80-yard score. The Rebels forced a three-and-out on Middlebury's next possession before uncorking a 17-play, 87-yard scoring drive.
Quarterback Hunter Riehle and receiver Cam Nolting hooked four times for 39 yards on the drive, including on a fourth-down completion and a 7-yard TD connection that gave South Burlington its only lead, 14-13 with 4:14 left in the first half.
"I never questioned my kids. They are pretty tough and they are in for the long haul," said McDonald of his Rebels overcoming an early deficit.
The Tigers pulled away with Bobby Ritter, Samuel Usilton and Connor Quinn snagging second-half interceptions. Ritter's pick led to Trautwein's 59-yard score and a 28-14 lead with 4:25 left in the third quarter.
Usilton's and Quinn's takeaways resulted in fourth-quarter scores from Trautwein (8-yard run) and Nathan Peck (7-yard catch), the latter of which swelled Middlebury's advantage to a 42-14 midway through the fourth.
A showdown with all the requisite pre-game hype, Smith said Friday night's game might serve as the first of two meetings.
"If everything holds true and the way the season has been going, yeah, it could be these very same teams four weeks down the line," said Smith of a possible title-game rematch.
Robinson finished with 130 yards on the ground and also connected on 2-of-4 passes for 30 yards and a score.
Riehle went 15-of-27 for 163 yards and two TDs, Nolting ended with six catches for 56 yards and Malik Hines recorded two sacks for the Rebels.
Middlebury outgained South Burlington 478 to 434.