Snider was one play away.
One play away from the state title game.
One fourth-down stop from its eighth state finals appearance in program history.
But one magical run from Valparaiso quarterback Justin Clark dashed all of the Panthers’ title hopes in a 22-21 overtime win.
In the second possession of overtime of the Class 5A North Semistate title game at Spuller Stadium after Snider scored on the first play of its overtime possession, the Vikings faced a fourth-and-eight. It’s dominant running back Travis Davis was stopped on the previous three plays, forcing Valparaiso to go to the air for the final play.
Clark only had four passing yards on 1-of-5 attempts on the night, so the Vikings were going to the weakest part of their offense to win the game. However, Clark didn’t need to use his arm. He took the snap, was flushed to his left and avoided one potential tackler. Clark couldn’t find anyone open and rolled back to his right slipping away from another tackler. He finally found some green on the right side and leaped over three Snider defenders and into the end zone for the score.
Then, the Vikings had a choice to either go for the extra point and the tie or go for two and the win. The choice was easy for Valpo because its kicking game struggled all night. Valparaiso’s first possession of the night ended in a blocked field goal.
The unit also missed its first point after attempt in the third quarter.
Also, when you consider Davis had rushed for 260 yards on 40 attempts and only needed to get a few yards for the right for a trip to Indianapolis, the choice to hand it off to Davis for the two-point conversion was easy. Davis took the handoff and barrelled across the goal line.
This sent the Viking sideline in a frenzy while Panther sideline stood in disbelief.
It ended so quickly when a couple of plays earlier, it looked like they were headed to their first state finals since 2015.
The shock quickly turned into frustration, which turned into tears.
The tears were justified.
It’s one of the worst ways you can lose a game.
The hurt comes from knowing they were so close then had it ripped away from them.
It had finally stopped Davis on three consecutive plays and just needed one more stop.
If you wore the No. 9 on Friday night, you were tough to stop. The Panthers’ No. 9, Langston Leavell, also had a productive night on the ground with 18 rushes for 215 yards and a touchdown. Leavell broke off several big runs, including a 40-yard run that looked like it was going to be stopped in the backfield but turned into the first touchdown of the game.
Leavell ran angry all night. His 50-yard gain right after the Vikings scored their first touchdown set up a score on the next play. Luke Haupert hit Lincoln Firks for a 14-yard score to regain some lost momentum.
Leavell scored on the first play of overtime on a swing pass from Haupert, but that was the last time the Panthers had reason to celebrate.
The magical run for Snider with comeback after comeback was ended with a pair of runs.
One that was remarkable.
And one that it had trouble stopping all night.
The first one stunned the Panthers.
The second one knocked them out.