INDIANAPOLIS — In search of its first state championship in two decades, Snider instead came away with the program’s third straight Class 5A state runner-up finish.
The No. 4 Panthers succumbed to Lawrence Central’s speed and their own turnovers in a 39-14 loss to the top-ranked Bears on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It hurts right now, but when I look back on it, it is still going to be great memories,” Snider senior defensive back Nick Reese said.
Snider (14-1) also finished second at state in 2002 and 2004.
The Panthers were the 1992 state champions, and were runners-up in 1986 and 1981 (in Class 3A).
“I am stunned, I thought we were going to come away with a win,” said senior linebacker Adam Wisler, who was named the 5A mental attitude award winner. “I don’t know what happened exactly. I might go home and watch it on DVR.”
Lawrence Central (15-0), the 2010 5A state runner-up, racked up 539 yards, 311 on the ground and 228 through the air.
The Bears’ Isaiah Townsend ran for 193 yards and two touchdowns, and Trey White had five catches for 140 yards.
Quarterback Drake Christen completed 8 of 15 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown to Tyja Thompson.
“They were beating us around the edge, and we were being a little softer than we should have been,” Reese said.
Snider’s defense was hurt by senior defensive tackle Weston Painter’s knee injury. He tore his ACL three weeks ago and played in the game but missed some while icing his knee on the sidelines.
In its final three postseason games, the Snider defense gave up 35, 39 and 39 points.
Snider had 301 yards of total offense but lost two fumbles and had two interceptions, one of which was returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Brandon Lee for the Bears’ final score.
“We just made too many mistakes,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “Lawrence Central made plays. We had our opportunities; we just didn’t take advantage of them.
“It was a great senior class, and they will go down in Snider history was one of the great ones. We didn’t get the final game done, but they have nothing to hang their heads about.”
Playing on an injured ankle suffered in the semistate last week, senior quarterback Brandon Phelps completed 19 of 32 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown but also had two interceptions and a lost fumble.
“It was sore all week, but that’s just the way it was,” Phelps said of the ankle.
Snider never felt out of the game, especially after its two-minute rally to beat Fishers 36-35 in overtime in the regional and a 42-39 gut-check semistate win over Merrillville on Nov. 16.
“We just would never give up,” Phelps said. “It was led by a big group of seniors, … and the freshmen, sophomores and juniors hopped on board of what we wanted to do. I appreciate everybody who fought until the end of the game.”
Snider got to within 26-14 in third quarter on Tyrell Swain’s 7-yard scoring run, but Lawrence Central got the turnovers and the game’s final two touchdowns for the final margin.
In the first half, the Bears outgained the Panthers 306-119 but led only 14-7 at halftime.
The Panthers stayed in the game with two Lawrence Central turnovers, a blocked field goal attempt and some nice punting and kickoff work by Josh Spitnale.
Lawrence Central jumped out to a 14-0 lead before Snider cut the lead in half on a 2-yard scoring play to Alec Reuille from Phelps.