Mishawaka's final play from scrimmage on Friday night put an emphatic exclamation point on the performance of the Snider defense.
Facing a fourth-and-one deep in Panthers territory, the Cavemen attempted to run outside, only to be gobbled up by DeAndrew Stroud and a host of defenders in black and yellow for a loss.
It was a textbook read of the triple option, the complicated scheme Mishawaka burns so many teams with and even terrorizes The Pig in nightmares.
Seriously, those pompous barn animals over at the Skinner farm run the option to perfection.
After a week-long process of preparation - including two days of practice without a football - Snider defended the Cavemen's tricky style admirably, holding Mishawaka to its lowest point total of the season in a 31-7 victory.
The top-ranked Panthers will travel to No. 5 Westfield (10-2) next Friday for a berth in the Class 5A state championship.
Three sequences of Friday's game best represented the game the Snider defense had:
- On its first drive of the game, Mishawaka went for it on fourth down close to midfield...and failed. The Cavemen entered the game 17-of-22 on fourth down this season. Snider stopped all three fourth-down attempts Friday.
- Late in the first quarter, Mishawaka faced first and goal inside the 10 in a scoreless game. The Snider defense shut down three straight runs, with the Cavemen then missing a field goal.
- Down 7-0, the Cavemen (10-3) started moving the ball again, but the Snider defense came on a big rush and dislodged the ball from quarterback Ryan Wroblewski, with Drew Stroud recovering. A few minutes later, Michael Haupert hit Mac Hippenhammer for a 25-yard touchdown that put the Panthers ahead by two scores.
All three plays saw the Panthers make the right read at the right time against an offense that can be puzzling at best and demoralizing at worst.
"Great job by our scout team offense that's made up of a lot of freshmen and sophomores and guys who don't get to play a lot," Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. "They were really in tune with what we asked them to do and they just emulated it as best we can, because you can't simulate that in four days of practice."
Snider (12-0) broke up its defense into different positions and drilled ad nauseam what each unit's responsibility was defending the option. A football wasn't even needed for much of it.
"I was disappointed the whole week to be honest with you," Stroud said. "(The option) is tough, especially when they are cracking at your legs, I'm not liking that.
"But we prepared hard for it."
The Snider offense did its typical work. Hippenhammer had a punt return for a touchdown to go along with his receiving score. Money Woods rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown while Haupert completed 11-of-14 passes for 114 yards.
But it was the Panthers defense that was the difference on Friday, despite not being a fan of the option.
And what if Westfield comes out with a similar scheme next week?
"I hope not," Stroud said. "If they are not an option team, they are playing our game."