Snider wasn’t perfect on Friday night. Far from it.
The Panthers turned the ball over twice – a fumble that killed a potential scoring drive and an interception in the end zone that cost them points.
Placekicks were sketchy at best, with Snider missing its first three extra point attempts and its lone field goal try.
The defensive line? Blown off the ball for most of the game, with North Side commanding the line of scrimmage with its impressive offensive front.
But when it counted, when plays needed to be made in Snider’s 25-21 win over the Legends to capture its first sectional title since 2018, Coach Kurt Tippmann’s team showed out.
Do not count this bear among the surprised. Sure, he picked the Panthers to win, but he felt the game was never out of Snider’s reach, even when it found itself trailing by nine in the second half.
You see, if there is one thing you can say about the Snider football program, it is that it never gets flustered. Ever. It may not play up to expectations at times (referenced above), but this is a squad that over the years has never allowed adversity to bring it down.
So when North Side lined up for a 4th-and-2 with around a minute left in regulation close to midfield, Blitz had a feeling that Coach Tippmann, who also serves as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator, had something up his sleeve.
The play? An all-out push up the middle. The thought? North Side was going to keep it simple, handing it off to its all-world running back (seriously, some 5A All-State love at least) Jontae Lambert. The much-maligned Snider D-line, a group that had already seen Lambert go for over 200 yards for the game, showed up when it truly mattered, penetrating and bringing Lambert down well short of the first.
Game over. And an 11th straight win for Snider over North Side in the playoffs.
Much like a few of the other postseason showdowns over the years between the two, North had Snider on the ropes. When Tristan Newsome picked off Luke Haupert in the end zone late in the third, the Legends were riding high. So too were they when they were inside the 3-yard line seemingly ready to score midway through the fourth, but penalties and lack of execution resulted in zero points.
The very next drive saw the Panthers go down the field and take the lead, capped by a Haupert to Lincoln Firks touchdown.
It came down to making the plays late, or not. North Side had its chances to put the game away, but couldn’t. Snider did what it could through the first three quarters to hand the game to the Legends, but hung around just enough to make a comeback feasible.
Blitz felt the emotions of North as it fell late. This was a team with all the confidence in the world heading in, a feeling only boosted over the course of the night as the Legends took it to Snider for three-plus quarters.
But the black and yellow never folded. It rarely does. North Side needed to deliver a knockout blow to Snider and couldn’t. It left the window of opportunity open and the Panthers burst through.
They tend to do that.
Wave the Flag.