Blackmon celebrated the occasion the only way he knows how: grabbing two interceptions – and returning one to the Bishop Luers’ 15 to set up a big score late in the second quarter.
“The guys are looking at me for leadership and to make big plays,” Blackmon said.
The rest of the Snider defense did follow Blackmon’s lead, forcing six fumbles and recovering five of them for a total of seven turnovers.
“These guys are all very good players,” Blackmon said of his fellow starters on defense. “They were all good enough to play last year as juniors, but were stuck behind some great seniors.”
Bishop Luers coach Kyle Lindsay agreed and said his team’s miscues were because of Snider’s defense.
“Their defense was a lot better in coverage than we thought they’d be,” Lindsay said. “And they really pressured us up front. Those interceptions were because of pressure. No, we can’t hang those (seven turnovers) just on our offense.”
Snider coach Kurt Tippmann was eager to credit his defense.
“It all starts up front with our defensive-line pressure,” Tippmann said. “Our guys did a great job with that and it opened up opportunities for our backs.”
Speaking of linebackers, what did Tippmann have to say about Blackmon?
“He’s pretty good, isn’t he?” Tippmann said. “He can make some outstanding plays; he’s special. And to have a three-year starter out there with all our first-year starters, well, he’s a great leader.”
Blackmon was quick to return the compliments.
“All the glory goes to our coaches,” Blackmon said. “They have great game plans and put us in the right position to make the plays.”
One play in particular, Blackmon’s first interception, came with 1:29 remaining in the first half and the Panthers leading 20-12. He picked off Noah Wesensky’s pass and returned it to the Bishop Luers 15. Six plays later, Colton Painter rushed for a touchdown and essentially put the game away.
“That was a tremendous play by Rahju and at just the right time,” Tippmann said.
The second half was dominated by the defenses, providing Lindsay with something positive to focus on.
“I’m really proud of our defense. Their backs were against the wall all night long,” Lindsay said. “And in the second half we really kept them from moving the ball. They only scored once, right near the end.”
Snider nearly doubled Bishop Luers in time of possession (31 minutes to 17).
Bishop Luers’ highlight was a 93-yard interception return for a touchdown by Josh Gibson early in the second quarter that tied the game at 6. Snider then responded with a 91-yard kickoff return by Andreas Gomez-Espino.