All three of Powell’s touchdowns came in the second period, which began with the Panthers returning a Riverton punt all the way to the Wolverines’ 44. From there, the Panthers needed eight plays to score on a Hayden Cragoe-to-Dewey Schwahn touchdown pass from 5 yards out. Schwahn added the kick and, at the 8:27 mark of the second quarter, Powell already had all the points it would need.
But the offense kept piling it on. After a fumbled punt return gave the Panthers the football at the Riverton 35, Powell needed just three plays for the Cragoe-to-Schwahn tandem to link up again, this time for a 29-yard strike that lifted the score to 14-0 with 1:56 remaining in the first half.
A bobbled kickoff combined with a quick three-and-out stop by the Powell defense forced Riverton to punt the ball out of its endzone. The Panthers returned the boot to the Riverton 39 with just enough time left on the clock for two or three plays.
As it turns out, they needed just one.
Vince Sleep pulled in a low swing pass from Cragoe on Powell’s first play, then rumbled the remaining 35 yards into the end zone for a 21-0 lead. The Panthers recovered an onside kick attempt following the score and nearly made the matter pay off as Cragoe found Schwahn for a long pass completion on the final play of the first half.
In all, the Panthers had nearly half of their offense for the game in that second quarter. Cragoe finished the first half with seven completions on eight passing attempts for 146 yards.
The hot finish to the first half by the Panthers failed to carry over to after intermission. After an early fumble by Powell, nearly every snap of the third quarter took place in Panther territory, placing a tremendous pressure on the team’s defensive unit. Time and again, Powell’s defense answered the call.
Powell halted Riverton on a pair of fourth-down conversion attempts inside the redzone to keep the unit’s scoreless streak intact. The Panthers stop unit added another fourth-down denial early in the fourth quarter before the offense picked up its first first down of the second half. Another late drive toward the Panthers’ endzone was abruptly stopped by an aerial interception in the endzone by Cragoe. The pickoff was one of two by the junior and one of four by the Panthers’ defense, which also saw Schwahn snare a pair of Riverton passes.
Powell also had a fumble recovery and an onside kick recovery from its special teams unit.
After the hot start to the game, Cragoe finished 8-for-16 with an interception and three touchdowns for 166 yards. In all, Powell finished with just 290 yards of offense in the game. Cory Heny, with 40 yards on 11 carries was the Panthers’ top ground gainer.
“I don’t think we answered the bell in the second half,” said Panther coach Jim Stringer following the contest. “It was a prize fight and we looked good in round one, but I’m not sure we came out swinging after halftime when it was round two.”
Defensively, Powell held Riverton to 162 yards of offense. The Wolverines were 12-for-24 through the air for 94 yards and four interceptions. The team also picked up 68 yards on 32 rushing attempts as the front seven on Powell’s defensive unit proved extremely hard to generate yards against for a second consecutive week.
Cragoe led the Panthers in defensive points with 24, thanks in large part to his two interceptions. He also had five solo and four assisted tackles. Anthony Lujan added 16 defensive points with one solo and six assisted tackles, one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. Brendon Phister and Dewey Schwahn also finished in double figures with 15 and 14 defensive points, respectively.
Powell, officially 1-0 for the year, hosts Buffalo for the first varsity game at the new Panther Stadium on Friday. Buffalo enters that contest off a 41-0 shutout of Worland last Friday.
“They’ve got some big kids,” said Stringer. “We’ll be undersized along the line again because they’ve got three or four kids who are up in that 250-270 pound range. They’ve also got a strong rushing attack with a kid who ran for, I think, 234 yards against Worland.”
Kickoff at Panther Stadium will be at 7 p.m. The game-time forecast currently calls for temperatures in the mid-to-lower 60s, a north wind of 5-10 miles per hour and an extremely slim chance for rain.