They came from everywhere.
Out of the woodwork.
Even some of their own fans, long timers who could barely remember what it felt like to be…average.
Snider football in 2020 was just that – normal. A pair of 30-point defeats to open the season set the tone. It ended with a one-and-done in the playoffs and a 5-5 overall record, the first non-winning season for the Panthers in 21 years.
It was the talk of the town. Wait, Snider? Four losses in the SAC?
Was Coach Kurt Tippmann slipping? Could the dynasty be over?
An off-season of questions were answered by a multitude of responses, mostly hidden from outsiders. Hard work was doubled. Focus was honed. Goals were set.
The page was turned to 2021.
The result? A Snider resurgence, culminating in a 27-15 victory over Bishop Luers on Friday at Luersfield to secure a share of the SAC championship with the Knights and Carroll.
On a cool, extremely damp night, the Panthers silenced the critics that for the better part of a year were able to take their shots at a program that had been largely bulletproof for a generation.
That door closed on the soggy grass on Friday.
“We used (the talk from last year) as motivation,” said Snider senior Dominick Moon, who finished with close to 10 tackles and a clutch interception near the goal line near the end of the first half on Friday. “We worked hard, never gave up hope and we let people know that we are still one of the top programs in the state.”
Facing a disadvantage on its own home field, Bishop Luers struggled to put together scoring drives on the natural grass surface that negated the Knights’ speed advantage.
But the field conditions did not decide the game. Snider had to deal with the same, and it handled them better but, more importantly, executed when it needed to.
The Panthers (7-1) were able to finish drives with touchdowns, three by Tyrese Brown. Each time Bishop Luers seemed to have the momentum, Snider had an answer.
There was bigger time for that than early in the third quarter. After trailing 14-0 at the break, Bishop Luers had struck quickly to open the second half when Carson Clark hit Nick Thompson down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. Following a Snider procedure penalty on the extra point, the Knights converted a two-point conversion to climb to within six.
After a huge hit on the kickoff return by Aden Dennis, the crowd was at a fever pitch as Bishop Luers (8-1) appeared to have captured the momentum. Yet the Panthers put together a six-minute drive that culminated in a Langston Leavell touchdown to put the Panthers back up two scores.
Similarly in the fourth quarter, after Clark hit Brody Glenn for a score, Snider again marched down the field in the closing minutes of the game, burning clock and any opportunity Bishop Luers had to come back. That drive ended in Brown’s third rushing TD, a 35-yard burst untouched.
The Panthers answered every challenge presented on Friday. Meanwhile, the Knights struggled. Moon’s pick at the goal line near halftime was a blow, as was two further interceptions thrown by Clark. While Bishop Luers was able to get hands on Brown, it never seemed to be able to bring the strong, powerful back down consistently.
And as is the case when a Class 5A team takes on a 2A squad, there was a certain amount of fatigue that set in one side as the other was able to rotate more bodies in over the course of a physical 48-minute game.
As both teams congratulated each other as time expired, it began to sink in that all of the grief and questions that came from 2020 paid off in 2021 for Snider. A piece of the Victory Bell tastes a lot sweeter than being a non-factor down the stretch a year ago.
After a one-year hiatus, the Panthers are surely back.
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