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November 13, 2008 3:16 am

Panthers fall to Douglas

Written by Tribune Staff

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Powell High School quarterback Galen Mills (21) eludes Bearcat defender Pierre Etchemendy during last Saturday's matchup in Douglas. The Bearcats won the double-overtime contest by a final score of 28-27. Brendan Burnett-Kurie/Douglas Budget

Heart-breaking loss in double-overtim contest

The Powell High School Panthers saw their season come to a dramatic close Saturday with a 28-27, double-overtime loss to the Douglas Bearcats in the semifinal round of the Class 4A football playoffs.

Douglas running back Cody Bohlander provided the winning margin with a successful two-point conversion run at the end of the second overtime. Bohlander's game-winning conversion jaunt was set up by a Panther penalty on the extra-point attempt following his 3-yard touchdown run that left Douglas behind 27-26.

The do-it-all Bohlander successfully kicked the extra point following his touchdown run to tie the game at 27, but the offsides penalty against the Panthers put Douglas in a position to opt for a conversion play from one and half yards out. The Bearcat coaching staff took the PAT off the scoreboard and decided to win or lose the game on a two-point conversion attempt. Their gamble paid off and earned the Bearcats (8-2) a berth opposite Buffalo in the 4A title game Saturday, Nov. 15, in Douglas.

For the fourth-ranked Panthers (6-4), their inability to stop Bohlander on the conversion run was enough to leave them facing many sleepless nights as they replayed that final scoring run in their minds. However, it was a number of yellow flags that left PHS head coach Jim Stringer tossing and turning the most. In particular, a pass-interference call that helped set up Bohlander's final touchdown of the day left Stringer frustrated and hurting for his players the most.

The flag came on a third-and-goal situation at the PHS 6 with the Panthers leading 27-20. On the play, Panther defenders Galen Mills and Matt Kifer defended against a pass to a Douglas receiver in the end zone. The ball was knocked away and fell incomplete, but instead of seeing the Panthers' effort as a solid defensive play, the referee who threw the flag ruled it a case of pass interference. The call gave Douglas a first-and-goal at the PHS 3 instead of leaving the Bearcats facing a fourth-and-goal situation from the PHS 6.

“They converged in front of the Douglas receiver and knocked the ball down,” Stringer said. “They hit each other, but it was ruled pass interference. The flags were really flying beginning at the start of the fourth quarter. We just felt like things were taken out of our hands. It was really frustrating, and I can't stop thinking about it.”

The overtime was set up by a defensive battle that played out from the game's opening kickoff. The Panthers were able to notch the first score of the game with 1:08 left in the first quarter on a 36-yard field goal by Drayson Bratt. That scoring drive, which was set up by a DHS turnover at the Panthers' 37, was highlighted by a 36-yard pass from Galen Mills to Trevor Donarski on a third-and-18 play from inside Panther territory.

On the kickoff after PHS's score, Bohlander appeared to score on an 81-yard return, but a flag against the Bearcats nullified the touchdown and gave Douglas the ball at Powell's 18. From there, the second-ranked Bearcats managed to reach the end zone on a drive capped by a 10-yard run by Bohlander. The PAT failed, leaving Douglas ahead 6-3 at the 11:44 mark in the second quarter. The Bearcats held that advantage until Bratt booted a 42-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining before halftime.

In the third quarter, the game became a battle of field position as both teams struggled in their efforts to put more points on the scoreboard. Panther defensive back Gavin Mills picked off two passes during the quarter, and his second one, which came at the PHS 28, led to a long scoring drive by the Panthers. That drive was sparked by a 27-yard run by Galen Mills on a second-and-15 play from the DHS 32. His run put the Panthers at the Douglas 4, and three plays later he tossed a 4-yard scoring strike to Gavin Mills. Bratt's PAT capped the drive, which spilled into the early stages of the fourth period.

Powell, leading 13-6, turned to its defense, which held the Bearcats to a three-and-out. After the Bearcats' punt and a short return by Brandon Sullivan to the PHS 29, the Panthers began driving down the field with just less than eight minutes to play. Auston Carter gave PHS a first down with a 4-yard run on a third-and-1 from the PHS 49 with 6:13 remaining, and Billy Harshman added a 6-yard run on first down. However, the drive stalled after Harshman's run. On second-and-4 at the DHS 40, the Panthers put the ball on the ground and recovered for a 5-yard loss, leaving them with eight yards to go for a first down. On the ensuing play, PHS suffered an incomplete pass, stopping the clock with 3:59 remaining.

PHS's fortunes continued to take a turn for the worse when Ryan Brandt's punt was partially blocked. Douglas then took over at its own 43, but gave the ball back to the Panthers two plays later when Kifer picked off a pass at the PHS 21 with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers got a 2-yard run from Harshman on first down and saw back-to-back passes fall incomplete on second and third downs. Once again, PHS was forced to punt, and Douglas took possession of the ball at its own 47 with less than three minutes to play.

A pass to Daniel Hancock and run by Pierre Etchemendy helped Douglas pick up two first downs and put the Bearcats at the Powell 28. DHS quarterback Shane Richendifer was then picked off, but a pass-interference call against the Panthers nullified the play with just more than a minute and a half left. Two plays after the penalty, Douglas got a 3-yard touchdown run from Bohlander. He also converted the PAT to tie the score at 13 with 1:02 remaining before the end of regulation.

Powell got good field position following a return by Harshman to the PHS 45, but two straight incompletions and a 1-yard loss forced PHS to punt. At that point, Douglas chose to take its chances in overtime and let the remaining 35 seconds tick off the clock.

Douglas opened the first overtime period with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Richendifer to Michael Hogan. Bohlander also booted the PAT.

The Panthers answered with an 8-yard touchdown strike from Galen Mills to Trevor Donarski. Bratt's PAT knotted the score at 20.

PHS got the ball first in the second overtime period and picked up four yards in two plays before suffering a 12-yard loss on a sack. The sack left the Panthers facing fourth-and-goal at the DHS 18, and Bratt was able to connect for a field goal. However, the Bearcats were called for roughing the kicker, which gave the Panthers a first down at the DHS 9. Three plays later, Powell scored on a 7-yard pass from Galen Mills to Donarski. Bratt's PAT put Powell ahead 27-20 and set the stage for the Bearcats' final touchdown and game-winning conversion run.

“It was a hard way to lose a game,” Stringer said. “The kids played so hard and they did everything we asked of them. It didn't turn out the way we wanted it, but I'm proud of the kids and the coaching staff, myself included, for the way we maintained our composure. We felt like some things went against us. That was frustrating, and we were hurt to see it end like that.”

For the game, PHS's offense was led by Galen Mills, who completed 12 of 28 passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the rushing attack with 45 yards on 17 carries. The receiving effort was paced by Donarski, who finished with five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

As a team, PHS managed 120 yards on 47 carries.

Douglas was led by Bohlander's 114 rushing yards on 19 carries. Overall, the Bearcats gained 163 rushing yards on 31 attempts. Richendifer added 57 yards on a 7-of-20 passing effort.