When the Borgia football Knights open the 2018 training camp, it will be without 42 percent of the players who helped the team go 11-1 this year.

Borgia loses 20 seniors from the 48 sophomores through seniors on this year’s team.

“We celebrate these 11 wins and the time we had with these kids,” Gildehaus said. “I thank them for everything they did.”

Gildehaus said while there was a sad feeling for seeing the season come to a sudden end, it was a time to appreciate all of the positives from the season.

“We have the best fans anywhere,” Gildehaus said. “I had to say goodbye to 20 outstanding kids tonight. It’s sad. I told the parents to come down and rejoice. It’s not every school that has a chance to win 11 ballgames. It’s not every school that has all of these people down on the field wanting to thank the seniors for the memories that were made.”

Gildehaus said the senior class went out fighting hard in the 28-14 loss to Rolla.

“When there’s a great opportunity, memories are made,” Gildehaus said. “We had an opportunity to make more memories this evening. Matt Piontek’s two touchdowns, the runs we made, Quinton Poepsel made some great catches. Our defense bent. Years from now, these kids can look back and remember how close we were. We battled with them.”

Borgia graduates Justin Heggemann, Ryan Zeitzmann, Matt Piontek, Jacob Unnerstall, Drew Piontek, Ben Hellebusch, Conor Joyce, Julian Reifschneider, Reid Posinski, Dylan Hellebusch, Chris Hellebusch, Brendan Zorich, Chris Broeder, Luke Grayson, Jared Mullen, Sean Rackley, Tyler Patton, Connor Breckenkamp, Quinton Poepsel and Jonah Chisamore.

Some were two-way standouts while others filled roles where needed. All were key to Borgia’s success this season.

“Tonight, I’m thankful for these kids and my coaches,” Gildehaus said. “We didn’t win 11 games because of me, we won because of my assistants and the players we have on this football field.”

Gildehaus said the Knights went down fighting.

“Overall, it was a great, exciting football game for our fans and everybody here,” he said. “I’ve got to thank our fans. I’ve got to thank the parents for making the commitment to sending their kids to our school. It’s not easy. Now, we can move on to the next group.”

That next group already is planning for 2018.

“The last thing they said when they left the field is we’ll be back,” Gildehaus said. “Matthew Sinnott said, ‘Coach, we’ll be here.’ All of the freshmen saw that. They saw the seniors, juniors and sophomores crying after this.”

Borgia had 31 freshmen in the program as well, 14 who were on the sidelines throughout the playoffs and saw what commitment it takes to have a winning team. Gildehaus hopes they can step up in the future.

“We had 14 freshmen who stayed with us and practiced all season long,” Gildehaus said. “Those freshmen prepared us for tonight’s game. We’ve got some speed coming.”

Since Gildehaus took over the program in 1987, there have been many changes in training and offseason commitment. When the 1992 Knights vowed to work through the offseason to get better, it was a novel idea. Today, that’s standard operating procedure for most programs.

Gildehaus doesn’t want his players to just focus on football.

“Football takes a tremendous amount of dedication, not one week or nine weeks out of the season,” Gildehaus said. “I want my kids to play all of the sports. The kids who make that commitment to play another sport, and lift, are the special kids. That’s why we win. It’s going to take that to be successful again. We have 580 kids in our school and they (Rolla) have 1,273. We took a school with almost 1,300 kids to the wire. That’s a credit to the kids and the coaching staff.”