Call it déjÀ vu once removed, or something.
Two years after Snider stumbled against North Side in the regular season and then celebrated a sectional victory at Chambers Field a month or so later, the Panthers lifted a Class 5A sectional trophy to the November sky Friday night. Again it was at Chambers Field; again it was after North Side had beaten them earlier in the season; this time the scoreboard read Snider 17, North Side 14, a Shane Leonard field goal winning it for Snider in overtime.
As for the payback, it was no less sweet this time around.
“We thought we didn’t play our best against them in our first game, and we made a lot of silly mistakes,” Snider quarterback Colton Painter said. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight, too, but we covered for them. I think we did have some revenge thoughts tonight.”
In the end, it came down to Leonard’s 25-yard kick and then a foot or less of contested turf with heartbreak on one side of it and wild joy on the other.
Leonard’s field goal to open the extra session left the door open for North Side (7-4) to win with a touchdown, and quarterback Mike Lovett did his level best to get it. Three carries put North 12 inches away from the end zone; North Side coach Ryan Hall chose to go big or go home, and Lovett – who threw for 223 yards and ran for 66 – lined them up and headed for the goal line one last time.
He never got there. Snider’s defensive front, which hadn’t really stopped Lovett and the Redskins but at least contained them, forcing five turnovers, got the needed push and slammed the door.
The finish left a distraught Lovett prostrate on the goal line and the end zone carpeted with equally distraught Redskins, while the Snider defense went roaring off to its sideline.
“First of all, congratulations to North Side. That’s a game nobody deserves to lose,” said Snider coach Kurt Tippmann, whose Panthers (9-2) overcame four turnovers of their own to earn a regional berth against top-ranked Westfield (10-1) next week. “I don’t know if we’ve played a quarterback as dynamic as Lovett in seven, eight years. That guy is so good at everything he does.
“(But) our defensive game plan was rock solid. We still didn’t stop him, but we were able to limit the effectiveness that he had.”
As both teams took turns relinquishing the football, all the scoring until the end happened in the first half.
Snider struck first, Painter finding fullback Alec Reuille wide open down the seam for 54 yards with 6:21 to play in the first quarter.
Lovett immediately answered, driving his team 80 yards in 11 plays. Nick Cook got the last 12 with 2:24 to play in the first.
Back came the Panthers, going 93 yards in 14 plays, the last of them a 5-yard touchdown by Jibri Bramley to make it 14-7 with 6:57 to play in the first half.
North Side answered with an 8-play, 52-yard drive, Lovett getting the last 16 on a slant to Kavon Anderson with 3:47 to play in the half. That made it 14-14, and that’s how it remain until the end.
“It’s a championship,” Tippmann said. “The conference eluded us, but to their credit they came back, and we won a championship and we get to advance.”