One of the most-hyped games of the year lived up to its billing on Friday as Class 5A No. 7 Snider defeated Class 4A No. 10 Bishop Dwenger 38-35 on a 31-yard field goal by Shane Leonard in the closing seconds.
Here is how the Panthers did it …
1. Gaining the extra yards
Snider's running backs ran with purpose on Friday, including Jibri Bramley, who gained 110 yards and scored three touchdowns on 18 carries. The Panthers seemed to initiate contact even on offense and get those extra few yards on a run. Snider was also able to turn the corner on the outside with regularity.
2. Defensive big plays
Jessie Bates' 95-yard interception return for a touchdown was a huge play in the game, but Snider's defensive front made several plays throughout the game that helped the Panthers to the win. Seniors Donavin O'Day and Rahju Blackmon were big in key spots, with the duo combining for two sacks.
Senior linebacker Tiberious McGhee also blocked a punt.
3. Shane Leonard
There is nothing more difficult in high school football than a kicker being put in a potential game-winning situation. These are not professional kickers or even kickers on scholarship, but guys that are still working on their craft, one they may have just picked up a few years or even months before. Leonard stoically came on and drilled the game-winning field goal after practicing kick after kick on the sidelines. A gut-check moment, one he passed with flying colors.
4. Limiting the big play
You would think this would not be on the list after the second play from scrimmage being a 56-yard touchdown pass for Bishop Dwenger. But following that, the Panthers did a fairly good job at limiting the Saints' big play. Following that score, the largest play from scrimmage by Bishop Dwenger was 25 yards, with just five plays going for 20 or more yards the rest of the game.
Snider did a solid job at not allowing Bishop Dwenger to pick up huge chunks of yards in a limited amount of time. That forced the Saints into more plays, and more potential mistakes, such as the pick-six late in the third by Bates.
5. No panic
This is not a surprise, considering Snider teams are rarely flustered in a game, but you have to think after Bishop Dwenger scored 16 seconds into the game that perhaps the Panthers would not be able to recover.
They recovered fine while immediately tying the game on a scoring drive of their own, showing that Snider was going to be alright despite allowing the quick score.