Snider turned its sectional opener against Wayne into a game of keep away – and came away with a 15-7 win.
The Panthers (7-2) defeated the Generals (6-3) for the second consecutive time on the back of several lengthy offensive drives and stout defense in big situations.
Snider advances to the sectional championship game Friday at North Side (7-3).
“We knew it would be a battle,” said Snider coach Kurt Tippman, whose team had 61 plays to Wayne’s 34 and had a 10-minute advantage in possession time. “Great job by our defense. We relied on them tonight.”
The game was scoreless after the first quarter, and a goal-line stand by Wayne on fourth and a foot with 8:30 left in the second quarter kept it that way. The Generals stood up Snider running back Alec Reuille after three straight runs by the Panthers.
But the Snider defense made up for it by blowing up a toss play and tackling Wayne junior running back Deion Powers for a safety.
The Panthers’ offense carried that momentum into its ensuing drive, as running back Neandre Billingsly carried for 45 of his 127 first-half yards on three plays. Snider junior quarterback Colton Painter ran play-action from the Wayne 14-yard line, found Reuille in the flat and watched him sprint in for a touchdown.
The Generals’ offense, lifeless until then, started to stir.
Wayne scored just 1:05 after Snider made it 9-0. Junior running back Keion Powers caught an over-the-shoulder corner route from senior quarterback Jaylon Thomas in stride and took it 45 yards to make it 9-7 with 5:45 to go in the half.
Then came a near-game changing scare for the Panthers.
Billingsly, a 5-foot-5, 135-pound junior, limped off the field after an 11-yard gain with just more than two minutes left in the second quarter, and his Panthers limped into halftime, too, up just 9-7.
But Billingsly jogged out just before the end of halftime, and regardless of the hitch in his step, he took the first three carries of the half.
“He gives a lot of heart, and he runs hard,” Tippman said of Billingsly, who had 193 yards on 27 carries. “Certainly, he did that.”
The Panthers needed some big stands on defense, too, and the second half brought many.
Senior defensive lineman Donavin O’Day tipped a pass at the Wayne 6-yard line, nabbed the interception and ran in for the score to make it 15-7 with 4:23 left in the quarter. Senior defensive back Sedrick Hides picked off the Generals on the ensuing possession and the Snider offense continued to chew up the clock.
Hides came up with his second interception, on the Snider 5, with five seconds left in the game, to seal the win.
“Every successful playoff run, you have to have a great defensive game one of those nights when your offense isn’t clicking,” said Tippman, whose team held Wayne to 134 total yards and five first downs. “That was certainly the case tonight.”