Snider faced its most difficult challenge of the season in a 34-31 win over Bishop Dwenger at Spuller Stadium on Friday that secured its second straight SAC title.
Jack James hit a 23-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining in the game to break a 31-all tie and lift the Panthers (8-0). It hit the goal post but bounced in a favorable direction.
He also hit a 41-yard field goal to put Snider up 31-24 with 2:28 left in the fourth.
“Kickers live for that moment when it comes down to them,” James said. “I was able to go out there, make it and help the team.
“It definitely scared me for a moment, but once I saw it corkscrew through, I was really happy.”
Despite losing a 21-point lead in the first half, the Saints (5-3) never trailed by more than a score and tied the game at 31 with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Patrick O'Keefe to Tommy Steele with 47 seconds left in the game.
Snider began the game-winning drive on its 36-yard line, and James capped it off with his game-winning kick.
“You can't expect anything different than a Bishop Dwenger-Snider game to end like this. This is classic,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “For our guys and their guys to go through that and just battle. That's what that's about: Two teams, battling their tails off, unfortunately, one of them has to lose. Credit to them, they battled, they battled.
“Here's the deal, we've played well at times, we haven't played well at times and we needed to get punched in the mouth and that's what (Dwenger) did. They played physical, ... more physical than any team we've played. We needed to see that and see how we'd respond. So it was a great challenge for our guys to have to respond to that kind of adversity and that's what builds teams.”
The Saints led 21-0 after a 5-yard pass to Patrick Finley and 1- and 2-yard runs by T.J. Tippmann. The Panthers fought back with a 1-yard run by Christian Covington with 5:58 left in the second quarter, immediately followed by a 51-yard interception return by Dalston Duff and a 46-yard punt return by Ethan Hoover with 14 seconds left in the half to tie it at 21 heading into halftime.
“We knew we had the momentum and we knew we had to ride it. We had the ball the second half, we knew we had to score each drive to win the game,” Snider quarterback Michael Haupert said.
“We learned that we're resilient. After getting punched in the mouth in the first quarter, we knew we had to bounce back somehow. We made great plays, special teams and defense, and we knew if we could climb back up, we could win the game.”
Covington led the ground game for the Panthers with 126 yards on 20 carries. Quarterback Michael Haupert 5 of 8 passes for 85 yards and one touchdown and ran 12 times for 76 yards.
O'Keefe ran 15 times for 60 yards and went 10 of 16 for 184 yards, two scores and an interception.