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October 16, 2008 3:40 am

Panthers aiming to shut down Bulldogs' Geiser

Written by Tribune Staff

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Powell High School defensive back Brandon Sullivan covers Lovell's Grant Geiser during last year's rivalry matchup between the Bulldogs and Panthers. The two teams will face off Friday night in Powell at 7 p.m. Tribune photo by David Dickey

All eyes on 12

When third-ranked, Class 4A Powell High School entertains Lovell Friday night at 7 p.m. in Panther Stadium, the Panther defense will have a clear objective in mind — stop No. 12.

No. 12 for the third-ranked, Class 3A Bulldogs is none other than quarterback Grant Geiser, a multi-sport athlete who is well known to PHS coaches, players and fans. For the 5-8, 140-pounder, this year is his fourth season as a member of the Bulldogs' varsity football squad. During the first three years of that span, his time as a signal caller has been limited.

“I played some at quarterback as a freshman, but as a sophomore and junior, I was used at tailback,” Geiser said.


However, since the start of this season, the Bulldogs have taken full advantage of the strong right arm of Geiser, who spends his summers as one of the top pitchers for Powell's Legion baseball team.

Ken Boatwright, who is in his first season as head coach of the Bulldogs, knew early on that Geiser was going to be a major contributor for the Bulldogs' offense, and the move from tailback to quarterback has proven to be a good one not only for Geiser, but the Bulldogs' program.

Through six games, Geiser has burned opposing defenses to the tune of 1,296 yards on 86 completions in 135 attempts. He's also thrown for 17 touchdowns and has been picked off just three times. And when Geiser has run the ball, he's been effective as well. In just more than 100 rushing attempts, he's gained 531 yards.

“One of the big keys is stopping Geiser,” said PHS head coach Jim Stringer. “We've got to keep him contained, and we've got to make sure he doesn't have forever to throw the ball. He's had a lot of success throwing the ball, and he's been able to run for a lot of yards as well.”

Simply put, Geiser's numbers this season have been eye-popping. During week three, Geiser accounted for 441 all-purpose yards during a 44-14 victory over Wright, a game that served as the start of Lovell's current four-game winning streak. As an encore, he finished with 448 all-purpose yards the following week against Greybull during a 47-21 victory by the Bulldogs.

“We struggled at first,” Boatwright said of Lovell's 0-2 start. “We re-invented ourselves and went with a spread offense so we could take better advantage of Geiser's throwing ability and the number of good skill kids we have. We've gotten better each week, and as we've had more success, the kids have gained more confidence.”

By virtue of their four straight victories, the Bulldogs have made a steady climb in Class 3A's rankings. They went from unranked to third, and they've gained plenty of attention statewide during their current streak, which has seen them average just below 45 points per contest.

Looking to shift the spotlight away from the Bulldogs' offense will be a Powell defense that also has tallied some impressive numbers this season.

Under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Mike Heny, the Panthers (4-2, 3-1) have attained a lofty status in Class 4A's standings for team defense. Powell is ranked second in that category behind Buffalo. On the ground, PHS is giving up just 103.3 yards per game. Through the air, opposing offenses are averaging only 67.7 yards per contest.

Heny knows his defenders have their work cut out for them this week. This will mark the second time this season PHS has faced a team that uses a spread offense. Star Valley, the team that leads Class 4A in passing, used that approach against the Panthers but were unable to reach the end zone in a 28-2 decision that went in PHS's favor. During that matchup, the Panthers helped their cause tremendously by picking off four passes by the Braves.

Heny said Lovell's spread offense has notable differences from the one used by Star Valley. Of those differences, one of the most glaring is that Geiser is more of a threat to run than the signal caller for the Braves.

“We've got to know where he is at all times,” Heny said. “Our guys will have to take care of their responsibilities, and they'll have to make good decisions.”

Among the leaders for Powell's defense is senior linebacker Trevor Donarski. He leads PHS in defensive points with 117, and his 19.5 defensive points per game have him ranked fifth in Class 4A.

Coincidentally, Donarski and Geiser are good friends. The two have known each other for years, and they've often gone head to head in various sporting events. They've also been teammates. Just last summer, both players were members of the Powell Pioneers.

“We talk a good bit,” said Donarski, who added there is a great deal of mutual respect among the Panthers and Bulldogs. “He's had some really good games this year. I'm glad he's doing well. He's a good guy, and I like him, but I'm still going to hit him hard when I can (Friday night).

“It should be a fun game. He's playing well, and their offense is capable of making some big plays. We've got to play hard, and we've got to tackle well and make good decisions against them.”

Geiser knows he's going to be a marked man when he steps foot on the field at Panther Stadium, but that's just fine with him. As a competitor, he relishes opportunities to play a top-caliber team like Powell.

“Powell is one of the top teams in 4A,” Geiser said. “Every year you know they are going to be good. I like playing against them. It's a big challenge, and it's one we're all looking forward to.”