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The Journal Gazette

  • Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Lenny Bennett runs the ball during Snider’s practice Monday. The Panthers take on Homestead tonight.

  • Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Lenny Bennett of Snider takes a hand off from teammate Jon Barnes Jr.and breaks through the defensive line while at practice Monday night.

  • Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Members of the Snider football team run sprints at the end of practice Monday night.

Friday, September 14, 2018 1:00 am

High School Football: Week 5

Panthers refocused after loss

Carroll game was Snider's wake-up call, safety asserts

VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette

Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said he has always felt that most teams in the SAC had the ability to beat any conference opponent. 

But this season, those upsets are actually happening. 

“You're seeing that, it seems like every weekend,” Tippmann said after a Snider practice this week. “It's a great conference, but it's because we have great coaches and great talent. Those are two ingredients for the balance that we have.”

Despite the “any given Friday” talks from the Panthers coaching staff – or, perhaps, because of them – no current player on the Snider roster had been on the losing side of a regular-season shocker coming into this fall. The Panthers ( 3-1) went undefeated in conference play in 2016 and 2017. In 2015, when the seniors were freshmen, Snider's lone SAC loss came by three points to a Bishop Dwenger team that went on to win a state title. 

But a 38-14 loss to Carroll in Week 2 somewhat dented the air of dominance that Snider has enjoyed in recent seasons.

“We did not handle the fray in a manner that you need to to operate in that intensity of a situation,” Tippmann said. “So very capable kids that have played well before and after, when we got into that situation, didn't handle it, and we started to break down.”

While the Panthers did not respond well to falling behind to Carroll during the game, senior free safety Ethan Hoover, who missed the first two games of the season because of a knee injury, said he thinks the team handled practice and preparation better in the wake of the loss. 

“It was definitely a wake-up call,” Hoover said. “Bad preparation all week. And congrats to Carroll – we just had to come harder and focus on the little things.”

Snider rebounded with a 37-7 win over Concordia, which included an interception by Hoover in his first game back. He tore his ACL in the sectional final win over Carroll last fall, and though his recovery was relatively quick, he tore his meniscus in the same knee during a non-contact drill this summer. 

“Missing him for the first part of the season added to some of the growth and struggles that we had, and having him back gives everybody confidence,” Tippmann said.

Hoover said that his recovery has been made easier by the fact that he is rehabbing alongside Carroll's Jack Tranquill, who is also nursing a knee injury. He also noted that coming back from the meniscus tear was easier than recovering from the ACL surgery.

“After the ACL, I was on crutches for a while, and then gradually got into rehab and all that,” Hoover said. “After my meniscus, I had my surgery on Thursday, and was at the game walking around at North Side on Friday.”

Hoover said he has worked hard to keep the back-to-back injuries from changing the way he plays.

“It's a mental battle every day, but I don't think it's affected me, physically,” Hoover said. “I try to push it every day, and the guys are there to support me.”

Tonight, the Panthers will play host to Homestead (2-2), another Class 6A team that was dominant in 2017 (at least against every team not named Snider) but which has stumbled in the last two weeks. 

“We have the utmost respect for Homestead and their programs, and they're going through some growing pains like us,” Tippmann said. “We know that every week they get better, just like top programs do, so we're going to get a great Homestead fight (tonight). And we know that we have to play at our best and play better than we have played to be successful.”

Tippmann said the entire program was relieved to see Hoover back and performing well on the field, but he hopes the senior will have more highlights before the end of high school career. 

“His first game back, I think it was his first or second series, and he got an interception, and everyone went, ahh, he's back,” Tippmann said.

“And that's great to see, and a great story, but hopefully there's more to the ending.”

vjacobsen@jg.net