As the Snider players filed out of Spuller Stadium nearly four hours after Friday night's kickoff, coach Kurt Tippmann slapped junior wide receiver Kamari Juarez on the back on the back, repeatedly exclaiming, "I told you so!"
After he and his teammates spent an hour in the locker rooms waiting out a thunderstorm, Juarez caught at least three highlight-reel passes from quarterback Luke Haupert, two of them for touchdowns, to help the Panthers beat Bishop Dwenger 33-22 and keep hopes of a conference title.
"We'll we've been working on our passing game, and we talked about how what we do in practice translates to what we do on Friday night," Tippmann said. "We had some good talks this week: improvement will come from good work, good hard work in practice, and it was good to see."
Bishop Dwenger was just 2 minutes into the first drive of the night when a loud rumble of thunder interrupted the game.
But even after the game resumed at around 8:15, it took some time to get the offenses rolling: Bishop Dwenger soon punted the ball away. Snider then marched down the field, but its progress stalled, and Nick Talamantes hit a 31-yard field goal to salvage the drive and give the Panthers (6-1) a 3-0 lead with 1:13 remaining in the first quarter.
On the final play of the first quarter, Haupert threw a bomb from midfield that Juarez caught on the 11-yard line. But the Saints defense held strong and the Panthers once again attempted a field goal, although this time the 24-yard kick fell short of the uprights.
The Panthers capitalized on their next trip to Bishop Dwenger’s end of the field, however, as Haupert threw a 25-yard pass that a leaping Juarez picked out of the air for a touchdown, putting Snider ahead 10-0 with 6:46 to play in the second quarter.
The Saints got a break before halftime: On a Snider punt attempt, the Panthers fumbled the ball, and Bishop Dwenger (4-4) took over on the Panthers’ 27-yard line. The Saints took advantage, getting a 2-yard KJ Tippmann carry for a score with 1:38 to play before halftime.
A nice kick return by Juarez gave the Panthers one more chance to do damage before the break, and Talamantes connected on a 46-yard field goal to give Snider the 13-7 halftime lead.
The Panthers really started pouring it on in the second half. Haupert ripped off another pass that covered half the field, this time connecting with Juarez for a 43-yard touchdown that got the stands rocking, giving Snider a 20-7 lead.
"We talked about how we had to come out in the third quarter. If we want to play for an SAC championship, we have to play well here in the second half, because Dwenger was playing their butts off," Tippmann said. "The first possession is always a key possession, and being able to go up and score was big."
After a roughing-the-kicker flag on the Saints, Snider was given a new set of downs in the red zone, which resulted in a short touchdown by senior running back Tyrese Brown that put the Panthers up 27-7 with 1:42 left in the third. Quincy Myatt picked off Bishop Dwenger and Snider started the fourth quarter on the Saints’ 4-yard line, and Brown added his second touchdown of the night on second down to give the Panthers a seemingly safe 33-7 lead, despite the extra point being blocked.
"This whole week, we knew they were going to fight hard, and they did today," Brown said of the Bishop Dwenger defense. "We fought harder. It depended on who was tougher."
But the Saints made it just a little more interesting in the fourth: With 10:27 to play, Saints quarterback Bohde Dickerson connected with senior Rocco Ciocca for a 33-yard touchdown. Then with 5:29 left in the game, Dickerson scored on a 9-yard quarterback keeper. And Tippmann scored on the 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to 33-22.
The Panthers face conference-leader Bishop Luers this Friday and can claim at least a share of the SAC title with a win.