“The guy Michael took over for broke every passing record we ever had here,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “He was a great leader, everything you want, won a state championship on the final drive. He’s kind of the legend now.”
Stiebeling led the Panthers to the Class 5A state title, compiling 3,300 yards in total offense on his way to a college scholarship at Eastern Michigan.
Haupert, who went to middle school in the Carroll system, spent his freshman year and half of his sophomore year at Bishop Dwenger before settling in at Snider.
“Coach Tipp told me I just had to do my job,” Haupert said. “We have plenty of playmakers on our offense. I don’t have to be Superman on the field, which put me in a good spot to learn everything I need to do to do my job the way it has to be done.”
Despite his inexperience and initial unfamiliarity with the Snider system – something he spent the summer studying – Haupert has helped No. 1 Snider (12-0) to this Friday’s semistate game at No. 5 Westfield (10-2). One more win and the Panthers will be back in the state finals.
Considering everything Stiebeling was asked to do last year, the fact Haupert has stepped in and continued the success is a tribute to the coaches and to Haupert.
Haupert has completed 88 of 145 passes (60.7 percent) for 1,206 yards and 15 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He has rushed for 654 yards and five touchdowns.
“As a junior, first-year starter, all we ask is you improve every week,” Tippmann said. “Isaac was different. There were games where we said, ‘You have to win this game. We’re dependent on you throwing the ball well to win.’ We don’t normally do that to a quarterback. That’s no our offensive philosophy. I think that helps Michael. We’re not asking him to win the games. Just do your job.”
Haupert said he played a variety of positions at Maple Creek Middle School, including quarterback, running back, receiver and safety. He zeroed in on playing quarterback while at Bishop Dwenger.
Upon transferring to Snider, Haupert had a formidable task of learning the system of one of the state’s perennial football powers.
“Our linemen, Zenden Dellinger, Joe Thornson, (running back) Money Woods, (receiver) Mac Hippenhammer – they all brought me under their wings to learn the offene and put it together,” Haupert said.
One major asset for Haupert is the talent around him. The Panthers have two outstanding running backs in Woods and Christian Covington. Woods has rushed for 1,182 yards (6.6 per carry) and 15 touchdowns. Covington has 998 yards (8.1 per carry) and 17 touchdowns.
Then there’s Hippenhammer, the Penn State recruit, who is a threat to score anytime he has the football. Hippenhammer has six rushing touchdowns, seven returning touchdowns, two punt-return touchdowns and two kick-return touchdowns.
Hippenhammer is also the backup quarterback. Before the season, Tippmann wondered how much he would have to rely on Hippenhammer at quarterback.
“As time has progressed, we have a better weapon when Mac’s out there (at wide receiver),” Tippmann said. “Some of that is a compliment to Michael and how he’s developed and been able the quarterback job.”
Hippenhammer said he assumed Haupert had some nerves as he took over the quarterback job, but he didn’t let any anxiety show.
“I think he’s handled it really well,” Hippenhammer said. “I know it’s tough for someone to transfer like that and pick up the offense. I feel like he’s done a very good job. I would say it’s all about preparation, his preparation. He watches a lot of film and studies the scheme and he’s done a good job.”
Defenses have tried to find a way to limit Woods, Covington and Hippenhammer in the run game, forcing the Panthers to rely more on Haupert’s passing skills.
Tippmann pointed to the Panthers’ sectional game against Concord when Haupert completed 9 of 11 passes for 172 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-3 win. Haupert also ran for a 62-yard score.
“They had nine guys standing on the line of scrimmage all night,” Tippmann said. “So throw it. Throw it. He threw to Mac, he threw to Jordan Gorman, he threw to the tight ends and he took advantage of what the defense was giving him.”
Because the Panthers have strong senior leadership, Haupert has been able to concentrate fully on doing his job.
“He’s a quiet kid, works extremely hard and he’s very coachable,” Tippmann said. “He has led the offense by doing what he’s supposed to do, getting the ball where he’s supposed to. He’s very competitive, a harder critic on himself than everybody else is.”
As the Panthers head back to the semistate, one step from a state trip, Haupert’s confidence has never been higher.
“The atmosphere is going to be great Friday,” Haupert said. “We just have to come together as a team, don’t get too hyped up about it, and do our job the way we’ve been taught.”
Haupert hasn’t tried to be Superman or Stiebeling this season. He simply followed Tippmann’s instructions, and success fell right into place.
University of Saint Francis quarterback Nick Ferrer and a few of his teammates have a special interest in the Snider vs. Westfield semistate game.
Ferrer played high school football at Westfield and four of his current teammates (receiver Akeim Kelsaw, punter Josh Spitnale, defensive tackle Matt Swartz and injured receiver Andreas Gomez-Espino) played at Snider.
Class 5A No. 1 Snider (12-0) plays at No. 5 Westfield (10-2) for a 5A semistate title Friday.
“I’ve been trying to recruit some more guys from Westfield,” Ferrer said. “I’m always by myself. It’s all in good fun. My freshman year I roomed with Andreas and we had a good wager going, following the game and everything. We lost that game.”
Ferrer was the Westfield quarterback in 2013 when his team beat Snider 36-7 in the regional championship. He threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns in that game.
“I told him, ‘You played against Snider and you beat them, but that’s not the case this year,’ ” Kelsaw said. “They’ve got Mac Hippenhammer and they’re going to play Snider football. It’ll be a great game. I think whoever wins that game will win state.”
Saint Francis opens the NAIA playoffs with a game against Missouri Valley at noon Saturday in Bishop D’Arcy Stadium.
For more on high school football, follow Reggie Hayes on Twitter at reggiehayes1