FORT WAYNE — Snider isn’t about to celebrate anything, yet, but the Panthers can certainly hear the faint sounds of something the football program hasn’t heard in seven years.
The Panthers overcame a huge hurdle Friday, when they stymied defending SAC champion Bishop Luers 10-7 in the season opener at Spuller Stadium.
Nothing is clinched, but it certainly puts Snider in control as it chases the program’s first SAC title since 2005.
“We have been wanting this since the last time they beat us,” Snider senior quarterback Brandon Phelps said. “We haven’t had the (Victory) Bell back since 2005, and we have never heard it ring before a game.”
The upper hand came because Snider tightened its grip on defense, limiting an explosive Luers offense to only a late touchdown.
“We were the underdog for a lot of people,” Snider senior defensive tackle Weston Painter said. “Now beating the (Class) 2A state champs and the conference champs, it gives us momentum coming into the conference more and more. It is pretty exciting.”
Luers had beaten Snider the last two years, but it still hasn’t beaten the Panthers three years in a row.
“It’s disappointing, but we played our hearts out,” Luers coach Matt Lindsay said. “Give them credit, they played a great defensive game.”
The Snider defense ended the game with a sack of Luers quarterback Quinn Cook on the final play.
“Defense wins championship, and those guys played lights out,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “They just played good, sound fundamental principles.”
The Panthers held the Knights to 230 yards, only 3.7 per play. Snider held tough on two fourth-down attempts and forced three turnovers.
“We were just flying to the ball,” Painter said. “Luers is dangerous with their speed, and they can cut it back on us, so having 11 men to the ball, they can’t do that.”
The Knights seemed to come to life midway through the fourth, cutting the lead to 10-7 on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Cook to Mike Rogers with 5:10 left.
Then Luers seemed to have a golden opportunity with three minutes left when Snider tried to pull off a fake punt but failed at its 31. But the Knights fizzled, lost yardage and had to punt it back to the Panthers.
Snider did most of its damage offensively on the ground. Tyrell Swain ran for 90 yards, and Nicolas Reese added 39 and a touchdown. Phelps completed only 7 of 16 for 108 yards.
Addison Dellinger caught five passes for 70 yards. Josh Spitanle kicked a 21-yard field goal for Snider in the third quarter
“Those guys are unbelievably fast,” Tippmann said of the Luers defense. “There wasn’t a lot out there, and we tried to rely heavily on the run game, and that wasn’t working either.”