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Posted on Fri. Nov. 23, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

CLASS 5A STATE FINAL

Unbeatens have similar traits

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Saturday

Who: Snider (14-0) vs. Lawrence Central (14-0)

Time: 7 p.m.

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium

Radio: 1250 AM, 1480 AM, 106.7 FM

TV: NBC33

Web: www.ihsaatv.org

FORT WAYNE — Size, speed and experience are components of both teams in Saturday’s Class 5A state championship game.

The two unbeaten teams will go head-to-head at Lucas Oil Stadium for the right to be crowned state champion.

“It is a similar situation,” Lawrence Central coach Jayson West said.

“(The Panthers) are dynamic on offense. They have weapons and a great leader (Brandon Phelps) on offense. They have great backs, and their line is huge.

“Their defense is everywhere and is scrappy and physical. It’s going to be a physical battle.”

And in at least one poll – the coaches’ poll – the two teams are ranked 1-2 with Lawrence Central on top and Snider second.

“They are undefeated and have played a very tough schedule,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said of the Bears. “They played good teams in the playoffs, so you know they are very, very good.

“You know they are going to play someone good every week, but they pose all kinds of problems with their athleticism and size.”

With so many similarities, Tippmann said the key might be a team just being themselves.

“In our experience, this game has a lot more to do with not beating yourself than it does doing something special,” Tippmann said.

“Because of the nerves in the game and the magnitude of the game, it really comes down to doing what you have been doing all year and doing it consistently.”

The Bears’ speed comes into play, especially on defense.

“They fly around to the football, maybe more so than anybody else we have played,” Tippmann said.

The Lawrence Central offense is led by senior quarterback Drake Christen, who has thrown for 1,670 yards and ran for 1,297 yards

Those numbers have made him a contender for the 2012 Mr. Football award.

“Drake is the key, and he makes it all go,” West said. “He is the best thing we could ask for to take our team to where it needs to be.

“He is not a typical stature of a quarterback because that doesn’t mean anything. He (has a don’t-judge-a-) book-by-the-cover mentality. Go ahead, judge him, but he is going to do his thing.”

The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Christen has accounted for 40 touchdowns, scoring 22 and passing for 18.

“They have a quarterback who is unbelievably good,” Tippmann said. “He is fast and will be one of the best athletes we have faced.”

The status of Phelps is in question after spraining his ankle during the 42-39 semistate win over Merrillville.

He was wearing a walking boot and was limited in practice this week.

Fellow senior Je’Norie Smith could get the start in Phelps’ place.

“They have a lot of big guys and good players, so we just have to execute because that’s what it is going to come down to,” said Smith, a starting running back if he isn’t playing quarterback.

The Panthers and Bears are both seasoned. Three of Lawrence Central’s linemen played on the 2010 5A state runner-up team, while Snider also has some experienced linemen.

Phelps has made 28 previous starts at quarterback for the Panthers.

“We just have to come out and be aggressive and do what we have been doing all year,” Snider senior running back/defensive back Nick Reese said.

gjones@jg.net


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