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October 07, 2008 3:01 am

PHS finally snaps streak against Star Valley

Written by Tribune Staff

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Powell High School's Brandon Sullivan (middle) fights for extra yardage as Star Valley's Jon Shumway (43) attempts to slow his progress. Also shown are Star Valley defenders Bill West (left) and Michael Luthi (right). Tribune photo by David Dickey

The frustration ends

With history working against them and one week after dropping a 19-14 setback to Lander, the Powell High School Panthers recorded a convincing 28-2 victory over Star Valley Friday night at Panther Stadium.

The Class 4A, West Conference victory was significant on several levels. For starters, the win kept the third-ranked Panthers (3-2 overall, 2-1 West) in the hunt for the conference crown. It also ended what has amounted to years of frustration for the Panthers against the team from Afton. Prior to Friday night, 2001 marked the last time PHS topped Star Valley (1-4 overall, 0-3 West).

Particularly frustrating for the Panthers were recent matchups for the Braves. During the Panthers' state championship season in 2006, Star Valley handed PHS its lone loss, a 24-7 setback in a contest that also served as homecoming for the Panthers. Last year, PHS squandered a late, fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Braves in overtime.

“We've had opportunities against them during the last four or five years, but we just haven't been able to put them away,” said PHS head coach Jim Stringer, who got his first win against Star Valley since taking over the varsity program at PHS in 2003. “In recent years, I've found myself thinking about how nice it would be to pop off a win against them. Last year, we had a good chance to get them, but we let it get away during a game that went down to the wire. It's a great feeling to finally get a win against them.”

This year's Panthers, however, weren't about to let a golden opportunity escape them. Powell began the scoring early in the second quarter on a two-yard touchdown run by running back Billy Harshman. Drayson Bratt added the PAT to cap the 52-yard drive.

With just more than five minutes remaining before halftime, PHS found itself in good field position after defensive end Ryan Brandt tackled the Braves' punter after a botched play on special teams. Brandt's stop set up PHS at the Star Valley 47. The Panthers' ensuing drive took more than three minutes off the clock and ended with Harshman scoring his second touchdown of the night on a four-yard run. Bratt again added the PAT for a 14-point cushion.

According to Stringer, the start of the third quarter proved be crucial to the game's outcome. PHS got the ball first in the second half and mounted a 77-yard scoring drive. The Panthers' drive concluded with quarterback Galen Mills throwing a 16-yard touchdown strike to Brandt and Bratt's third PAT of the game.

“After that drive, I really felt like we were in control of the game,” Stringer said. “At that point, I knew we'd be in pretty good shape if we continued to play well and avoided making any major mistakes like we did against Lander. We had some mistakes, but we never made them at critical times like we did the week before. All in all, I was impressed with our intensity and our concentration throughout game.

“The defense did a great job of shutting them down. Our offense played well and only had three plays for negative yardage. We had some success with our passing game, and I thought Billy Harshman ran hard and did a good job of hitting the holes aggressively.”
Star Valley's defense finally put the Braves on the scoreboard during the fourth quarter. PHS, facing a third-and-14 situation at its own one-yard line, suffered a fumble in the end zone. Harshman picked up the ball and raced to his left in attempt to escape the Braves' defenders, but he was brought down for a safety with 8:35 left to play.

The Panthers ended the Braves' momentum, however, by stopping Star Valley following the kick after the safety. After taking over at its own 47, the Panthers marched 53 yards for the final touchdown of the game, and it proved to be a memorable one for PHS lineman Kyle Woodward.

PHS, facing second-and-goal from the Star Valley nine, turned to Harshman, who bulled his way toward the goal line. Near the five-yard line, Star Valley's Michael Luthi stripped the ball from Harshman's grip and it bounced into the end zone. Woodward, who was blocking Luthi during the play, alertly sprinted to the end zone and fell on the ball for the score. Bratt added the PAT and ended the scoring with just more than five minutes remaining in the contest.

The Panthers finished the game with 47 rushes for 202 yards. Harshman led the way with 114 yards on 20 attempts. PHS's second-leading rusher was Galen Mills, who added 28 yards on 13 carries. Trevor Donarski and Brandon Sullivan added 24 and 19 yards on six and four rushes, respectively.

Galen Mills enjoyed a four-for-eight passing performance for 56 yards and one touchdown. Leading the receiving effort was Brandt with two catches for 31 yards. Gavin Mills added one reception for 29 yards.

Defensively, Powell held the Braves' offense in check throughout the contest. Star Valley entered the game averaging almost 200 yards passing per contest. The Braves' quarterbacks hit just nine of 26 passes for 90 yards. Star Valley also was the victim of four interceptions. On the ground, the Panthers limited their opponent to only 53 yards on 27 attempts.

Leading the defensive charge for PHS was Donarski, who finished with 30 defensive points. Included in his effort was an interception that ended Star Valley's first drive of the game. Trent Gillett added a 17-point defensive showing, and Galen Mills and Gavin Mills finished with 16 and 15 defensive points. Brandt added 12 points.

Others who picked off passes Friday included Gillett, Galen Mills and Kyle Sullivan. Sullivan's interception came on the game's final play. The sophomore returned the ball 51 yards, and despite his best effort, he was dragged down five yards short of what would have been his first varsity touchdown.

• Up next: The Panthers will travel Friday for a West Conference matchup with Jackson. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Jackson is 2-3 overall and 1-2 in West Conference matchups.