The grin on Rogers coach Marc Franz's face after the Royals' wildly entertaining 40-36 victory over Elk River could have stretched all the way up Hwy. 101 to the home of their intradistrict rival.
The smile on the face of Elks coach Steve Hamilton was nearly as big.
The two football teams had just combined for 76 points, nearly 900 yards of total offense, a second half that featured seven lead changes and a heart-stopping Hail Mary pass by the Elks on the game's final play that came up 1 yard short.
"Someone asked what my favorite part of the game was and I told them, 'Right now. It's over, it's done with,'" Franz said with relief. "It was just a classic game."
Despite being on the losing end, Hamilton was far from unhappy.
"Wasn't that fun?" he asked. "We had some advantages, they had some advantages and they don't match up. We had trouble stopping them, and they had trouble stopping us. But it was so much fun, for both communities."
Elk River entered the game with a 7-0 record but hadn't won at Rogers since 2012. The Elks looked primed to break through when they took a 14-3 first-quarter lead after scoring on their first two possessions.
The Rogers defense stiffened in the second quarter, and the Royals cut the lead to 14-13 at halftime, setting up a second half in which the teams traded touchdowns.
Rogers (7-1) took a 20-14 lead on a 2-yard run by running back Ben Dahl, his second score of the game. The Elks used their trademark big-play rushing attack to regain the lead, 21-20, on a 52-yard keeper by quarterback Zach Stroh.
Ryan Kammers' 6-yard run put Rogers back on top 27-21 as the third quarter ended.
The fourth quarter was even more frenetic. Joe Nordstrom's second 41-yard touchdown run of the game gave the lead back to Elk River, 28-27. Rogers answered with a 66-yard scoring pass from quarterback Easton Miller to Michael Olowo, regaining a 33-28 lead.
Elk River came back again. A touchdown and a two-point conversion from running back Carter Otto gave the Elks a 36-33 lead with 4 minutes, 4 seconds left.
Rogers responded one more time, with Miller hitting Austin Auld on a 15-yard crossing route with 1:04 left in the game for a 40-36 lead.
With time running out, Elk River mounted a final drive. With 3.1 seconds left and the ball on the Rogers 34-yard line, Stroh launched a desperation pass toward the Rogers end zone. It was caught by an Elk River receiver, but the Rogers defense hauled him down at the 1-yard line as time expired, preserving the Royals' seventh consecutive victory.
"Their receiver gathered himself better than our defender," Franz said. "I'm going, 'No!' But we brought him down on the 1. My goodness."
Miller said he never had a doubt the Royals would come out on top.
"We knew, from Day 1, this game was going to be back and forth," he said. "I just can't describe how resilient our team is. Not for one moment did anyone doubt that we were going to win that game."
"I can't wait to talk to our kids [Thursday]," Franz said. "The way they competed. At the end, [Elk River] took the lead and our kids just marched down the field and executed. I can't give enough credit to the kids."