Snider senior defensive tackle Weston Painter wasn’t about to let a torn ACL keep him from the biggest game of his high school career. So in a surprise move, the Indiana State recruit played for the Panthers’ 42-39 win over Merrillville on Friday in a Class 5A semistate at Wayne Stadium.
The win put the Panthers (14-0) into their first 5A state finals since 2004.
They play top-ranked Lawrence Central (14-0) at 7:05 p.m. next Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Painter seriously injured his left knee in a 24-14 sectional finals win over North Side two weeks ago. He missed the second half of that game, and then missed Snider’s 36-35 regional win over Fishers last week.
“It’s my senior year, and it can’t get torn anymore,” Painter said. “The ACL’s already torn. I wanted to persevere through it, and I wanted to play. I have been rehabbing it the last two weeks, and I was so happy I passed my test (Thursday) and was able to get on the field (Friday).”
Earlier this week, Snider coach Kurt Tippmann indicated the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Painter was lost for the season. But there was Painter out on the field against the Pirates (11-3) on Friday, with his knee wrapped up.
He wasn’t in the starting lineup, but made his way into the game early and played a lot.
“All the fans thought I was out for the season,” he said. “I didn’t want to tell anyone on Twitter or anything like that because I wanted people to be out there. I just rehabbed it all week and now have to get back to work on Monday.”
Coming into the game, Painter had 57 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He also had forced three fumbles, recovered three fumbles and had one memorable 65-yard interception return in a 30-20 win over Homestead in the sectional opener.
Snider gave up a lot of yards (523) and points (39) and almost blew a 42-26 fourth-quarter lead, but the Panthers persevered just like Painter.
“All week we have preached that we have to get 11 men to the ball because the last two weeks we have been playing a little soft, and we weren’t playing the Snider defense we have been playing all year,” Painter said of the defense. “We watched the Luers game (10-7 win), and we watched the Penn game (28-20 win), and we watched the first North Side (17-6 win), and we saw how hard we played and how hard we fought. We had to recite that tonight, and we did just that.”