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Panthers head to Riverton in clash of playoff schools

Sleep returns to field for Powell

After a zero-week shutout of traditional Montana powerhouse Miles City, the No. 1 ranked Powell Panther football team will square off against Riverton this Friday in a meeting of 2011 playoff qualifiers. The Wolverines scored a 27-9 win over Worland during the zero week.

“They’ll be a good opponent for us,” said Panther head coach Jim Stringer. “I think they’ll be a little bigger than we are along the line of scrimmage. They’ve got a really nice quarterback coming back and their tailback is also coming back from last season.”

Riverton was the No. 4 team out of the east last season in the 3A playoffs. The Wolverines lost in the quarterfinals to Green River by a 49-21 count, but were trailing by just a touchdown before a late flurry of scoring by the Wolves opened a wider margin.

“I expect they’ll be a better team than we saw at the start of last season,” Stringer said. “It’ll be a good test to see where we’re at.”

Any tests Powell had during its first taste of action last weekend were largely passed with flying colors. The Panthers held Miles City to less than 100 yards of total offense and five first downs. The Cowboys mounted only one drive against Powell’s defensive unit.

That unit will be even tougher to crack this week as it welcomes back senior middle linebacker Vince Sleep. Sleep, one of Wyoming’s defensive point leaders in each of the past two seasons, sat out last week’s game at Miles City for precautionary reasons stemming from an injured finger suffered in the offseason.

“He’s chomping at the bit to get back out there,” Stringer said of Sleep, whose presence should further bolster a defense that forced a fumble and two interceptions to go along with the low yards-against output.

Offensively, Hayden Cragoe threw for nearly 200 yards in his debut as the Panthers’ quarterback. Aiding the team’s junior signal caller was senior Dewey Schwahn, who accounted for 149 receiving yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Despite that, Stringer remarked after last week’s game that there was room for improvement in the passing department.

“Overall, after we looked at the film, we executed pretty well on 60 to 70 percent of our offensive snaps,” said Stringer. “There were probably six to 12 plays where we looked at things and said the kids executed things exactly as they were drawn up. But then there’s that other 30-40 percent that had obvious room for improvement, and that’s what we want to focus on. We want to get things right every snap of the ball.”

For the first game of the season though, Stringer added that he was “pretty happy” with the ratio of well-executed plays.

Kickoff in Friday’s game is 7 p.m. The contest will be played on Riverton’s all-weather field next to the high school rather than the grass field west of downtown that Panther fans may be accustomed to from previous games in Riverton. The weather forecast calls for seasonably warm gametime temperatures and a 10-15 miles per hour wind.

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