FORT WAYNE — Unlike past years, the battle for the SAC’s Victory Bell came with very little noise in the cold rain and muddy conditions at Zollner Stadium.
Snider’s 43-0 win over Bishop Dwenger returned the SAC championship and the traveling trophy to the Panthers for the first time since 2005.
“It means a lot to us juniors, and those who are playing for the seniors to make it a nice, memorable thing,” Snider junior linebacker Rahju Blackmon said. “It’s the first of many championships we want to win.
“We just knew our hard work and dedication as a team would bring us to those goals. So far, we have been perfect in executing them. This was a nice win tonight to bring the Bell back to where it belongs, on Vance Street.”
A shorthanded Saints’ team put up little fight in a rivalry that had produced a lot of racket in the past, with the last two meetings being decided in overtime.
“We have been through some tough times with this group, and this is great for them,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said of the SAC title.
The Panthers (8-0, 6-0), who won back-to-back SAC titles in 2004 and 2005, have won 14 conference championships since 1973. Luers won last year’s title, while Dwenger captured the previous five.
“There’s been some good teams in this area,” Tippmann said. “We have been in contention every year. There’s some talent in this city, and that’s why it is so special to win it. Every year, the winner of the SAC is a very good team.”
Dwenger (3-5, 3-3) had an outside chance to win the championship but was hurt by injuries and suspensions.
The difference was Snider’s defense. After giving up 51 points last week in a nonconference 66-51 win over Elkhart Central, Snider delivered the shutout against the Saints. Dwenger had 140 yards of total offense.
“It comes down to our coaching and our preparation to the game plan,” Blackmon said. “Our coaches let us know (last week) that that’s not how Snider football should be played. It’s four quarters of full football, and that’s what we wanted to do tonight.”
Snider blew the game open with 22 points in the second quarter to turn a 14-0 lead to a 36-0 advantage at halftime.
The Panthers used big plays to fuel their offense. Snider racked up 305 rushing yards on 39 carries for an average of 7.8 yards per carry. Nick Reese had a 38-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and added a 68-yard kickoff return after a safety. Je’Norie Smith had 92 rushing yards on 12 carries and a 3-yard touchdown, while Tyrell Swain went for 92 yards on three carries, including a 78-yard scoring run in the second.
“That’s what this type of game is determined by, play up front on both offense and defense,” Tippmann said of his offensive line.