But the Panthers proved they have the depth and the moxie to stand tall when it counts.
Three times North Side tried to pound it in from inside the 1-yard line. Three times Snider stuffed it.
That was it, game over.
True, the Panthers were helped by questionable North Side play calling (out of the shotgun at the 1? Where is the goal-line package?), but Snider still needed to step up and make plays. It did exactly that.
First it was Anthony Linnear up the middle, stopped. Then C.J. Jackson to the outside, stopped again. On fourth down, it seemed almost a guarantee that the Panthers would step up. They did, getting penetration across the line and knocking Linnear back for a loss.
Elite teams make elite plays. Snider is an elite football team.
The offense then did its thing after the goal-line stand, eating up nine minutes of the clock with a drive that climaxed with a 35-yard field goal by Josh Spitnale to put the game out of reach.
Snider had its miscues (what is with all the false start penalties?), but it made plays when it had to.
Je'Norie Smith's 130 yards rushing and two scores was huge, but there was no bigger performance than the Panthers defense, without one of its leaders, pitching a shutout in the second half against one of the more dynamic offensive teams in the area.* The Pig swears he can hear the rowdy celebrations from Monroeville even now. Heritage did not just beat the top-ranked team in Class 3A, it demolished Jimtown in a 40-29 victory that was not as close as the score indicated.
How about Conner Sheehan? The senior threw for more than 300 yards to lead Heritage to the win. Who said the Patriots are led by their defense?
It is the first sectional crown since 2004 for Heritage, and the program will attempt to earn its first-ever regional title next week at Mishawaka Marian. A tough assignment, but is anyone really considering betting against them now?
* It is amusing to The Pig that all season he spoke about how the NHC and ACAC were already “in the bag” for Homestead and Leo, respectively. Now, the Spartans and Lions are running layup drills at basketball practice while they watch Carroll and Heritage carry the torch for their respective conferences deep into the postseason.
Funny how that works out, isn't it? Well, probably funny to everyone not associated with Homestead or Leo.
* Props to Churubusco for hanging with Bishop Luers on Friday. The Pig has been poking Turtletown for a few weeks now, and 'Busco fans gave it back to him with some good-natured ribbing.
There is nothing to be disappointed about if you are the Eagles after the shutout defeat. You may end up giving the Knights the best game of the playoffs.
However, the point has to be made. You can only get so far in the postseason with a one-dimensional offense. At some point, you are going to run into a team who can at least limit, and maybe even completely shut down, the one phase of the game at which you excel.
State championship-contending teams are able to beat you multiple ways.
* As for Luers, do not pencil in the Knights to that state title game yet. Tipton has a lot of built-up angst for Bishop Luers thanks to several defeats recently in the postseason in football and basketball.
The Knights scored 99 points combined in victories over the Blue Devils the past two seasons in regional play. Bishop Luers will not score at that clip next week. This will be a grind of a game that Tipton has a chance to win if the Knights do not show up ready to go.
See you all next week!