Despite the odds, Tippmann prepared his team well. Over the course of two timeouts – first by North Side then by Snider – prior to the play, the coaching staff spoke to the players about what to look for and what to anticipate before and after the snap.
“Initially, we had a plan for whether they were going to come out in shotgun or whether they were going to come out under center,” Tippmann said. “We called a defense for either one of those. Once their offensive line came out in foot-to-foot (tight) splits, we made sure we knew what we were going to do (during the second timeout).”
The Panthers (9-2) defended the North Side play call perfectly. As Lovett first tried the quarterback sneak, he was bottled up by the push of the Snider defensive tackles, with reinforcements coming from the inside linebackers. Lovett attempted to escape to the outside, but the defensive ends had sealed the corner.
“The initial surge was plugged, and (Lovett) tried to skate out to the outside, but (senior defensive lineman Donavin O'Day) was on the edge.”
Snider frequently practices fourth-and-goal situations in practice, giving the players plenty of experience to pull from, even with the differences between practice and a game coming down to a single play for a sectional championship.
“In those situations our defensive line has to play a little lower and not get driven back at all."When Cadets coach Tim Mannigel describes senior running back Jon Poore, he uses words such as “persistent”, “sneaky good” and “a pleasure to coach”.
In a way, the description of Poore is almost a microcosm of the entire football team.
“I don't think we are a team where if you came an hour early to the game and watched us warm up, you would be blown away,” said Mannigel, whose team earned a berth in the Class 3A regional with a 42-21 victory over Bishop Luers on Friday. “We are not a get-off-the-bus-good kind of team.”
Poore has been not just good, but great over the past several weeks for the Cadets, who have now won seven consecutive games. The senior rushed for 147 yards and five touchdowns against Bishop Luers, won week after scoring a pair of touchdowns and rushing for 140 yards against Bellmont.
“He is sneaky-good in terms of finding the hole,” said Mannigel about Poore. “Earlier in the year he was having some trouble against a lot of stout run defenses. He has come on in the last half of the season for us.”
Poore has also helped alleviate the pressure on the Cadets' passing game, namely quarterback David Morrison.There has been nothing flashy about the Saints over the course of three victories that led to a sectional championship, just a consistent, well-disciplined team executing more than the opponent.
One thing that has stood out for the Saints is the ability to get ahead in games. In the first half, Bishop Dwenger has outscored its three sectional opponents – Northridge, Angola and East Noble – by a combined score of 79-3.
That includes key early leads of 14-0 against Northridge and 16-0 against East Noble, along with a 42-0 halftime advantage over Angola.* South Adams won its first sectional championship since 1996 on Friday night after entering the postseason 2-7. Interestingly, when the Starfires won its last sectional 17 years ago, it also ended the regular season without a winning record, sporting a 4-4 mark before notching three consecutive victories.
* At 11-1, New Haven is one of five teams still alive in Class 4A with one or zero losses on the season, along with New Prairie (12-0), New Palestine (12-0), Columbus East (12-0) and Jasper (11-1).