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November 06, 2008 4:22 am

PHS travels to face Douglas in semifinal matchup

Written by Tribune Staff

Showdown set for Saturday at noon

A berth in the Class 4A championship game will be on the line Saturday at noon when the Powell High School football team travels to face the Douglas Bearcats.

The Panthers (6-3) enter the contest having opened the playoffs last week with a 12-7 road victory against the Lander Tigers, a squad that edged PHS during the regular season by five points.

Douglas (7-2), a team that lost two of its first three games this season, enters the semifinals having won six straight games. The most recent victory was a 55-0 decision over Rawlins during last week's playoff round.

PHS head coach Jim Stringer said the Bearcats have been on a roll lately, but he believes his Panthers are capable of venturing into Douglas and securing a win. The key, Stringer said, will be the Panthers' ability to eliminate many of the mistakes that have hampered them in recent weeks.

“We need to go in there and have a solid effort,” Stringer said. “We don't have to play flawlessly, but we do need to have a fairly mistake-free game. If we can cut down on a lot of the mistakes we've had lately, I believe we can beat anybody. “

For the Panthers, turnovers and penalties have played critical roles the past two weeks. A mistake-filled game cost the Panthers a shot at upsetting top-ranked Cody in the final game of the regular season, and made last week's game with Lander closer than Stringer believes it should have been.

“We let two good scoring opportunities get away,” Stringer said about the Lander game. “We could have had another 14 points on the board, but a pair of turnovers ended scoring drives deep in Lander territory.”

When the game kicks off Saturday, fans will get to see two squads that have enjoyed their share of balanced, offensive success this season. Douglas currently ranks second in team offense (316.8 ypg) in Class 4A. Powell is close behind in fourth (257.1). Douglas (179.8 ypg) and Powell (147.7) are ranked third and fourth, respectively in rushing offense, and both are among 4A's best passing teams. Douglas is ranked second in passing offense (137 ypg), while the Panthers are fourth (109.4).

The Panthers have a host of weapons on offense, including quarterback Galen Mills, who ranks third in 4A in all-purpose yards (157.4 ypg). He has completed 70 of 130 passes for 985 yards, eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He's also averaging 43.9 yards rushing per game.

Other offensive leaders for PHS include Billy Harshman and Ryan Brandt. Harshman leads the team in rushing with 441 yards and six touchdowns on 120 carries, and Brandt leads the receiving corps with 326 yards and four touchdowns on 21 receptions.

Douglas, like PHS, has had several players turn in big-time efforts this season, but the workhorse of the team is running back Cody Bohlander. He has rushed 117 times for 809 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and has caught 14 passes for 330 yards and two scores. He ranks second in 4A with 158.2 all-purpose yards per game.

“He's the real deal,” Stringer said. “He's got great speed, and he's got ankle-breaking moves. He's usually over a 100 yards rushing each week, and they like to use him in a lot of different ways.”

The Bearcats also have a solid quarterback — Shane Richendifer. He has completed 71 of 152 passes for 1,187 yards this season. He also has thrown 12 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

Both teams will bring stubborn defenses into the matchup Saturday. Powell has 4A's top-ranked unit in team defense. Powell is giving up 172.6 yards per contest. Against the run, Powell ranks third (96.7 ypg). They also rank third in pass defense (75.9 ypg).

Among the individual leaders for the PHS defense are Trevor Donarski and Matt McArthur. Donarski is ranked eighth in 4A as far as defensive points per game with 16.1. McArthur is 14th with 13.8 defensive point per game.

Douglas brings the fifth-ranked defense into Saturday's game. The Bearcats are the top team in 4A against the pass (66.2 ypg). As for rushing defense, Douglas ranks fifth (122.7 ypg).

The defensive leader for Douglas is Pierre Etchemendy, who ranks third in 4A in defensive points per game (18.7).

The winner of Saturday's semifinal game in Douglas will earn the right to play the winner of Friday night's Buffalo-Cody matchup. That game will be played at Cody and has a scheduled 6 p.m. kickoff.