Heading towards the buses following a 35-13 victory over Bishop Luers on Friday, Snider running back Tyrese Brown was asked by Blitz when he last ran for five touchdowns.
“Oh man, it would have to be middle school,” said the junior, who amassed 289 yards and five scores on 32 carries against the Knights.
While Brown and his offensive linemen made it look easy on Friday, it has been anything but for the Panthers this season. Back-to-back 30-point blowout losses to start the 2020 campaign set the tone, one that needed to be changed…quickly.
For Brown and the wealth of youngsters in big roles for the Panthers, the earlier middle school reference also fits when examining how Snider’s personnel were preparing for opponents.
It was believed that the talent that saw many of them have success at Lane and Blackhawk would translate to Snider. Practice wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. Wins would come easily, as they always had.
When reality set in, Snider’s roster needed to embrace a culture shift.
“We are so young, and kids don’t understand how hard you have to prepare in practice,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “They are so used to watching the older guys play and everything works, and then they get in there and it is a learning experience.”
Brown admitted that he and some of his teammates were not as locked in as they should have been early in the year at practice. It took a couple whoopins – as well as some “friendly” conversations with coaches – to get the Panthers to bear down.
The improvement during the week has seen an uptick in success on Fridays. Snider enters the playoffs having won five of its last seven games. While its sectional opponent Homestead beat the Panthers by 30 in Week 5, progress out of Tippmann’s team should mean that Round 2 will be closer.
The progression this season was evident in Friday’s victory. While Brown was the standout, a defense that has been much maligned at times played tenacious and physical, frequently getting to Bishop Luers (3-6) quarterback Carson Clark. After rushing for 187 yards in Week 8, Knights running back Sir Hale was held to 47 yards on Friday.
Offensively, Luke Haupert continues to look more and more confident behind center, not an easy task as a sophomore leading a perennial power. He completed 14-of-18 passes for 168 yards.
With just a single senior starter on offense and four on defense, the Panthers do not have the luxury of leaning on experience.
“With a small senior class, it takes awhile for the youth to realize what it takes to perform,” Tippmann said. “We are going live in practice a lot because they need to learn how to play harder and more physical.”
That approach has made a difference.
“We figured coming into the season we could use our talent to beat people,” Brown said. “But we had to be more mature in practice (after starting 0-2). We weren’t take it serious enough.”
At 5-4, Snider no longer looks like the lost team it did in the first few weeks of the year. Gone are the confusing looks to the sideline or at each other pre-snap. Friday saw a Panthers squad that knew their assignments, how to perform them and how hard they needed to work on each and every play – all aspects of the game that were missing at times earlier in the year.
Nine weeks may not seem like a long time, but in terms of where Snider was and where it is now, it has been an eternity.
“We were making a lot of young guy mistakes (early), and we are still making too many for our liking,” Tippmann said. “But to the kids’ credit, they have been positive, have accepting coaching and show up every day giving good effort.”
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