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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.

After an epic campaign season, voters in Park County turned out in remarkable numbers. Voters broke the record for absentee ballots with an impressive 4,217 early ballots, up from the previous record of 3,278.

At the national level, this campaign certainly was historic. At local and state levels, there were no big surprises, but a strong turnout —102 percent of registered voters — showed that voters were invested in this election and wanted their voices to be heard. Cynicism and apathy among Americans hopefully are quieting as freshly-elected candidates take office in the near future.

Locally and nationally, new leaders were chosen.

Nationally, Democrat Barack Obama's election as the 44th president, and first black president in U.S. history, shows Americans were hungry for change and hopeful that Obama will deliver.

Rather than focus on colors — white and black, blue and red — Obama said Tuesday Americans “sent a message to the world that we aren't a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

In a time of economic turmoil, warfare and uncertainty, America needs to stand united.

For Obama to succeed in his presidency, he must govern from the center, not strictly from the left.

In his concession speech, Republican John McCain echoed the sentiment of a united America. He urged his supporters to “find ways to come together to find the necessary comprises to bridge our differences.”

Americans are hopeful that these eloquent words, spoken by Obama and McCain, resonate in our society and are more than mere words, but provide actual results.

Locally, Powell re-elected Scott Mangold as its mayor. Mangold is devoted to the Powell community, has learned much in his first term and hopefully will carry those lessons into four more successful years as mayor.

Mangold is one of Powell's most-recognized voices, and his commitment to promote the town and listen to its citizens will continue to benefit the community. Mangold's strong support among local voters — nearly 64 percent — indicates Powell residents trust his leadership and believe that he's taking the town in the right direction.

Campaign season is finally behind us, but elected leaders know that the work is just beginning.

November 06, 2008 4:15 am

There's Joy in Pantherville

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The Powell Lady Panthers celebrate a state championship following their win over Kemmerer Saturday night. The convincing 3-0 win over the Lady Rangers brought the championship trophy home to Powell for the first time since 1987. Read the whole story below. Tribune photo by Don Amend

November 04, 2008 3:01 am

It's Election Day

Twelve open-poll hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. today (Tuesday) will determine much of Wyoming's governance over coming years.

State voters will help pick the United States' next president and choose which three candidates will represent Wyoming in Congress.

The high stakes and a couple tight races are expected to contribute to a big showing at the polls.

“We definitely are expecting an incredible turnout,” said Park County Clerk Kelly Jensen.

November 04, 2008 3:01 am

Powell landfill options are slim

Trucking trash to Cody seen as only choice

The message from recent landfill planning is that unless Park County wants to truck its waste to Casper, there are few viable options on the table — and it's going to be expensive.

“It's essentially one alternative,” said consultant Myra Peak at a Thursday landfill meeting.

That choice is to bring all of the county's garbage to a lined landfill in Cody. However, building a lined cell in Cody would mean a significant increase in costs.

Currently, the landfills of Park County charge $60 for every ton of waste dumped. Based on numbers run by Richard Thiel, a solid waste engineer, that cost could double, and will almost certainly rise.

Yellowstone National Park plans to allow snowmobiles inside its gates this winter.

The Park Service made a temporary winter use plan available for public comment yesterday (Monday) that would allow 318 commercially-guided snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches to enter Yellowstone's gates each day. That includes the East Entrance and Sylvan Pass.

The Park Service had originally proposed allowing 540 snowmobiles and 83 snowcoaches into Yellowstone each day, but that decision was voided by a federal district court.

November 04, 2008 3:01 am

State Champs!

Girls bring home PHS's second volleyball championship

When they first stepped on the volleyball court this fall, the Powell High School Lady Panthers wanted nothing less than a state championship.

On Saturday night, they got it.

The Lady Panthers capped their 3A championship season with a hard-fought, 3-0 win over the Kemmerer Lady Rangers at the Casper Events Center Saturday. The victory gave the Lady Panther volleyball program its first state title since 1987. It also is only the second volleyball title in the school's history.

November 04, 2008 3:00 am

Sub-Region champions

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Lady Trappers Carol Martin (1), Angela Schuman (middle) and Irelis Avendano (5) celebrate following a kill by Avendano during Saturday's match with Miles Community College. Tribune photo by David Dickey

NWC's attention turns to Region IX North Tournament

Playing for the first time since making their initial appearance in the NJCAA's Division I volleyball poll, the Northwest College Lady Trappers secured a three-set sweep (25-21, 25-22, 25-12) against Miles Community College Saturday afternoon in Powell.

The win helped NWC land the North Sub-Region title along with the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye during the Region IX North Tournament, which will begin Wednesday in Cheyenne. It also gave the Lady Trappers (38-8 overall, 13-2 North Sub-Region) an unblemished 8-0 mark in matches played in Hank Cabre Gymnasium this season.

November 04, 2008 3:00 am

Panthers tame Tigers

PHS edges Lander 12-7, advances to semifinals

Powell High School's football team traveled to face Lander in a first-round playoff matchup Friday night and came away with a 12-7 victory over the Tigers.

For PHS (6-3), the win helped them avenge a 19-14, regular-season setback to Lander during the fourth week of the season. More importantly, Friday night's decision helped PHS earn a date in Class 4A's semifinal round. The Panthers are scheduled to face Douglas (7-2) in a road matchup Saturday at noon.

“Offensively, we were able to move the ball pretty well,” said PHS head coach Jim Stringer. “But we still made some mistakes that kept us from taking advantage of some scoring opportunities or kept us from keeping some drives going.”

One such turnover occurred on PHS's first drive of the game after the Panther defense held Lander to a three-and-out. Powell's drive started on its own 37, and using a good mix of passing and running plays, the Panthers were able to move the ball inside Lander's 10-yard line.

However, on a second-and-goal play from the Lander 8, a potential touchdown pass bounced off the shoulder pads of receiver Gavin Mills and was picked off by a Tiger defender at the Lander 1.

Powell's defense then held the Tigers to just one yard and forced the home team to punt from its own end zone. Matt McArthur broke through the line of scrimmage on the play and blocked Lander's punt out of the back of the end zone for a safety and the first points of the game.

“That was a huge play,” Stringer said of the block by McArthur. “It was good to have that after we turned the ball over.”

Not to be outdone, the Tigers blocked a punt of their own during the second quarter. The block gave Lander a first down at the PHS 20, and it took the host team just three plays to score. Bret Klop capped the drive with a 6-yard scoring run, and with the successful PAT, the Tigers moved ahead 7-2.

The Panthers, after suffering a pair of interceptions and a blocked punt in the first half, saw their first drive of the third quarter end with a fumble inside Lander's 25-yard land. The turnover ended a march that began on the PHS 20.

“Our kids could have folded the tents after that one,” Stringer said. “But they didn't give up, and they kept playing hard.”

Lander endured another three-and-out following the Panthers' third turnover of the game, and PHS quickly atoned for the miscue with a 70-yard scoring drive that featured a 56-yard touchdown run by quarterback Galen Mills. On the scoring play scoring run, receivers Gavin Mills and Ryan Brandt and running back Billy Harshman all made key blocks. Stringer said he was particularly impressed with Harshman's effort.

Harshman, after fulfilling his initial blocking assignment, raced downfield and took out a Lander safety and cornerback with a second block.

Drayson Bratt added the PAT after Galen Mills' run to put the Panthers ahead 9-7 just past the midway point of the third period.

With 2:17 left in the fourth quarter, Bratt tacked on three more points for PHS with a 37-yard field goal.

Lander got the ball back at its own 47-yard line following a squib kick that bounced off a Tiger just past midfield. Lander was able to recover the ball and needed to go just 53 yards for a go-ahead score. However, much like it did throughout the game, the Panther defense rose to the occasion and held the Tigers to four straight incomplete passes to end Lander's hopes of a dramatic come-from-behind effort. After the Tigers turned over the ball on downs, PHS held the ball until the remaining time expired.

For the game, PHS's defense limited Lander to only 64 yards rushing and 27 yards passing. The Tigers completed just two of 16 passes. In the earlier meeting between the two teams, it was Lander's passing game that helped propel them to victory in Panther Stadium.

Among those playing a major role in grounding the Tigers' passing attack was safety Gavin Mills. He was given the role of covering Matt Baker, Lander's No. 1 receiver, throughout the game.

“Gavin played extremely well on defense,” Stringer said. “He shut down Baker throughout the game and really took him out of his element. He was frustrated because he couldn't get open, and that led Lander's quarterback to get confused and frustrated.”

McArthur also played well throughout the contest, according to Stringer, and finished with a team-leading 21 defensive points.

“He was really flying around the field the whole game,” Stringer said of McArthur.

As for Powell's offense, Galen Mills proved to be effective both running and throwing the ball. He finished with 14 carries for a game-high 128 yards and completed 13 of 23 passes for 122 yards. The receiving effort was paced by Brandt and Trevor Donarski. Brandt caught five passes for 65 yards, and Donarski had six catches for 43 yards. Of Donarski's catches, four were for first downs.

Both teams were hit hard by penalties throughout the contest. PHS was flagged 10 times for 68 yards, and Lander committed 12 penalties for 90 yards.

In other Class 4A playoff action last weekend, Douglas defeated Rawlins 55-0, Buffalo overpowered Worland 34-7 and Cody blasted Torrington 47-0.

In addition to PHS's semifinal matchup at Douglas Saturday at noon, Buffalo will be at Cody Friday for a 6 p.m. matchup.

November 04, 2008 3:00 am

Ghoulish greeting

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Brielee Ashcraft and her father, Sam, help arrange Halloween decorations in the yard of Mary Brady and Dwain Ashcraft on Sunlight Drive. Tribune photo by Toby Bonner