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Snider ground game easy as 1-2-3

Panthers’ 3-headed running attack has team in state final

– In a nontraditional move, the Snider football team’s ground game has been powered by three talented running backs en route to a spot in the Class 5A state championship game.

Over the years, the Panthers have been known for their single tailback. But when John Nelson graduated last year and took his 2,350 yards with him, in stepped a 1-2-3 combination.

Seniors Je’Norie Smith, Tyrell Swain, and Nick Reese have combined for 2,983 yards and 38 touchdowns for the Panthers (14-0).

“We didn’t have an established guy who we knew would be the guy,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “But we knew we had this pool of guys who were going to vie for the job.

“They all bring something different that helps make our offense successful. They are all unselfish kids, and they are not worried that ‘I have more carries than you’ or anything like that. That’s unique in a high school kid, and they all three have it. We went into the summer, we said we will give these three a shot and see who surfaces.”

Apparently the answer was all three.

Smith, a converted quarterback, leads the team with 1,231 yards and is tied with Reese with 15 touchdowns. Swain has 1,053 yards and eight touchdowns while Reese, who starts at defensive back, has 699 yards.

“We came in not knowing who was starting, so we all worked our butt off to get that starting spot,” Reese said. “All of us pushing each other has helped us mature as running backs.”

Swain said he is the speedy one, Reese the power runner and Smith has the vision.

“It’s like three different things,” Swain said.

It’s all been possible because the three have shared the load without letting ego get in the way.

“It’s worked really well,” Smith said. “If someone is tired or we are hurt, someone else comes in fresh. We can all count on each other because we know we can all get the job done.”

Reese has 46 tackles and two interceptions.

“Whenever they need me to come in, I will come in,” Reese said. “They get more of the carries because I also play defense. I like defense more, and I still do, but playing running back this year has brought back some memories from freshman year.”

The system might get broken, though, for Snider’s 5A matchup against top-ranked Lawrence Central (14-0) on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Smith, who was the junior varsity quarterback last year, might have to step in at signal caller because senior Brandon Phelps sprained his ankle last Friday in the semistate. Phelps’ 1,897 single-season and 3,476 career yards are closing in on school records.

“I just try to help the team out and get the job done,” Smith said of playing quarterback, if necessary.

State finals

At Lucas Oil Stadium,
Class A
Laf. Central Catholic (13-1) vs. Indpls. Scecina (11-3), 3:30 p.m.
Class 2A
Bishop Luers (10-4) vs. Indpls. Ritter (14-0), 7 p.m.
Class 3A
Hamilton Heights (13-1) vs. Indpls. Chatard (12-2), noon
Class 4A
Mishawaka (11-3) vs. Indpls. Cathedral (9-5), 3:30 p.m.
Class 5A
Snider (14-0) vs. Lawrence Central (14-0), 7:05 p.m.
Admission: $15 per day
Radio: 1450 AM 1380 AM, 106.7 FM (Luers); 1250 AM, 106.7 FM (Snider)

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