FORT WAYNE – With mud still clinging to its jerseys like battle scars, the Snider football team knew it had been in a fight.
After seeing a 23-point lead dwindle to nine, the Panthers prevailed in a first-round sectional showdown of undefeated Class 5A teams, beating Homestead 30-20 at Spuller Stadium on Friday.
I told our guys in the locker room that they better be ready for a game because they are coming right at us, Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. We didn’t shy away from that. To their credit, they never quit. To our credit, we never quit either. That’s a great win for the program, and we get to play another week.
Snider jumped in front 23-0, but Homestead cut the lead to nine points at 23-14 early in the third. Snider led 30-20 midway through the fourth when Homestead recovered an onside kick. A fourth-down pass to Seth Coate in the end zone was overthrown with a couple of minutes left, allowing the Panthers to run out the clock.
The Panthers (10-0) will travel to Wayne (3-7) in a second-round sectional matchup Friday.
Just 24 hours after North Side beat Northrop – and after an all-day rain hit the grass turf – Spuller Stadium showed the usual late-season signs of wear and tear of double use.
It was the kind of game Snider wanted with its stout offensive line and desire to get down and dirty in the mud this year, getting a fourth win in inclement conditions.
We knew it was going to be a battle, we had talked about it all week, Snider senior quarterback Brandon Phelps said. They were 9-0, and they aren’t going to give up easily. We just had to come out here and play in the trenches like we know how to do.
We have a good running game already. Homestead throws the ball more than what we do, and it’s tough to throw the ball in the muck, and it’s nasty. It’s just what we had to do.
Phelps had 219 yards passing and a touchdown, while Je’Norie Smith had 94 rushing yards and a touchdown. Nick Reese added 52 rushing yards and a score.
The Spartans (9-1) fought back despite not having the best history in wet and muddy conditions. Isaac Griffith, an Indiana recruit, caught three passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, but Homestead suffered its second straight first-round sectional loss after back-to-back undefeated regular seasons.
We just challenged them, said Homestead coach Chad Zolman, whose team outscored Snider 13-7 in the second half. We said never-say-die is it.
We had a couple of chances to get a couple of late scores and make it a tight game, and we just didn’t get it done.
Weston Painter, Snider’s big defense tackle, intercepted a pass and ran 65 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to put the Panthers up 23-0.
The Spartans cut the lead to 23-14 early in the third quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run by Frank Martin before Smith’s 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth made it 30-14.
It was just two good 5A programs going after it, and our game plan just worked perfect, Painter said.