FORT WAYNE – With the recent history between Bishop Dwenger and Snider, junior kicker Shane Leonard knew the 2013 edition of the rivalry could come down to a field goal.
“I was wondering about that the whole game,” Leonard said after his 31-yard field goal with 16 seconds left gave the Panthers a 38-35 win over the Saints on Friday.
“I was glad to be able to win it for my team. Just give credit to the offense and the defense for stops and good field position. I was glad I could help.”
With a 43-0 Snider win last year an anomaly, the last few games between the teams have been close. Snider won in 42-41 in overtime in 2011 and 27-24 in 2008, and Dwenger won 46-45 in two overtimes in 2010.
“My heart was beating, and I was praying to God that we could do it again,” said Snider senior running back Jibri Bramley, who ran for three touchdowns. “Our coaches tell us all the time that this game always seems to come down to a field goal or overtime.”
Snider (6-2, 5-1) kept its hopes alive for a repeat SAC championship. The Panthers are tied with North Side in the conference, but the Redskins hold the head-to-head tiebreaker because of an earlier win.
“That’s a toss-up game, any team could’ve won that game,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “What a job by our kicker. What a game. Just two teams knocking each other in the face and playing good, hard football and none of this other BS stuff that goes on, just good hard-nosed football and guys making plays.”
After a punt, Snider got the ball at its 31 with 3:46 remaining and drove down the field, converting a fourth-and-10 at the Saints’ 33 on a 12-yard pass from Colton Painter to Andreas Gomez-Espino with 1:36 left. The Panthers then positioned the ball at the 14-yard line and Leonard hit the field goal.
It was a back-and-forth struggle with Snider able to open a 35-21 advantage on a 95-yard interception return for a score by Jessie Bates in the third quarter. But the Saints tied the game at 35 on two touchdown runs by Mike Fiacable, who also threw two touchdowns.
And with the game on the line, the Panthers put its fate – and the ball – in the hands of Painter, a junior who is in his first year of varsity football.
Painter finished 13 of 21 for 50 yards and led the Panthers on the final drive and got the key fourth-down conversion.
“We love the games that come down to the wire,” Painter said. “Snider is typically a running team, but we all know with our passing game it is just a matter of time. We didn’t start out the year as good as we wanted to. But it is there.”
Bishop Dwenger (5-3, 4-2) suffered its third straight loss and is out of the conference race.
“Congratulations to Snider,” Dwenger coach Chris Svarczkopf said. “They did a lot of things that hadn’t done before. We have to find out who we are. To allow the touchdowns at the end of the first half and make it look so easy for other teams is something we have to fix, and we have to fix immediately.”