When Jeffrey Becker hit Layton Mitchell for a 26-yard touchdown with 2:36 left in the fourth quarter on Friday night, Carroll fans erupted.
The Chargers, it had seemed, had tied Snider once again, pushing closer to potentially edging the Panthers in the regular season for the second straight year.
Not so fast.
The extra point, merely an afterthought to many, was hiked, snapped, laid down and kicked.
Final score: Snider 21, Carroll 20.
When prepping for the Panthers, opposing coaches stress the importance of every play. Snider has won so many games because of special teams. A return here, a block there.
Unfortunately, no matter how many times coaches stress it, some players don’t learn the lesson until something like Friday happens.
The hero on Friday for Snider was junior Reece Thomas, who got enough of a push on the PAT to be in position to get a hand on it.
“That play was crazy,” Thomas said. “Me and (fellow defensive lineman Gianini Belizaire) were talking at the time and I told him, ‘We need to block this kick.’
“So me and him rushed at the same time, I stuck my hand up and it came right to me.”
Thomas had not gotten close to blocking a kick at any point during the game up to that point. But after coaches stressed to the players the importance of the PAT immediately following the touchdown, Snider then went out and executed.
One play, no matter how miniscule or seemingly unimportant or easy, can be the difference between a win or a loss. Or in this case, a tie and a one-point deficit.
Against most importance, a missed opportunity here or a miscue there isn’t a death sentence. But those things are magnified against the Panthers. Snider was able to amass over 400 yards of total offense, including 171 yards and three TDs from junior QB Jon Barnes Jr. and 115 yards rushing from Chance Collier.
The margin for error is slim when attempting to slay a giant. In the SAC, Snider fits that description. Carroll (1-1) did exactly what it needed to do for 99 percent of the time on Friday. Becker looked the part of a seasoned vet, throwing for 224 yards and three touchdowns with one early interception. One of his few miscues came midway through the fourth when he fumbled after a run during a Carroll drive. The ball was recovered by Snider, although there was some ambiguity on whether or not Brock Widman, who also had intercepted Becker in the first quarter, had control before he went out of bounds.
But when Snider (2-0) needed a play again late, its defense delivered. It was only fitting that one of the biggest defensive playmakers in the history of the Panthers program was in attendance on Friday, as Jessie Bates III saw his No. 5 retired in a halftime ceremony.
Thomas may not be the next Bates, but he is the latest hero in the clutch for Snider, a list that grows significantly more lengthy with each passing season.
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