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Panthers’ grand opening

Cory Heny scored the first varsity touchdown in Panther Stadium with a 90-yard kickoff return, then added a rushing touchdown to open the second quarter as No. 1 Powell cruised to a 41-14 win over No. 3 Buffalo last Friday.  Cory Heny scored the first varsity touchdown in Panther Stadium with a 90-yard kickoff return, then added a rushing touchdown to open the second quarter as No. 1 Powell cruised to a 41-14 win over No. 3 Buffalo last Friday. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik

Heny’s kickoff return sparks 41-14 Powell rout

Cory Heny took the opening kickoff of the first varsity football game played in the new Panther Stadium 90 yards for a score and No. 1 Powell had few problems handling the larger lines of third-ranked Buffalo on Friday night in a 41-14 victory.

The win improves the Panthers to 2-0 while the margin will almost assuredly capture attention around Wyoming.

“I knew from watching film that the middle of Buffalo’s kick coverage opened up,” Heny said of his return. “I just wanted to hit it as quick as I could.”

He did, and rarely seemed at risk of going down in the process of scoring. The fact wasn’t lost on the junior when asked if there was a key block that triggered the touchdown return.

“I didn’t really see anything,” Heny said. “I just know it really opened up. It was a lot of guys doing their job.”

Heny also scored the second touchdown at Panther Stadium, this one coming on the first play of the second quarter as he pulled his way into the endzone from five yards out. The rush capped a 14-play, 76-yard drive that was kept alive in part due to a 15-yard penalty whistled against the Bison on a fourth-and-9 play at the Buffalo 31.

The Panthers threatened on their next drive, but fumbled the ball away at the Buffalo 29. A short while later, the Bison were able to slip a receiver behind the Powell secondary to take the ball from their own 45 down to the Panthers’ 7. Two plays later, Buffalo was celebrating the first score in nearly 10 quarters of football against the Panther defense this season, making the score 13-7 with 4:54 to go in the half.

Powell wasted little time recovering the points. The Panthers took the ensuing kickoff out to the 42. Aided by another 15-yard infraction against the Bison, Powell crossed midfield, moving into the red zone on a 22-yard Hayden Cragoe-to-Dewey Schwahn pass play. Three snaps of the football later, those two hooked up again as Schwahn stood all alone in the left side of the Panther endzone for an uncontested 9-yard touchdown reception.

Then it was the defense’s turn. Vince Sleep pounced on a Buffalo fumble and carried it back to the 3 before getting tackled. From there, it took two plays for Cragoe to slip into the endzone for a touchdown to make the halftime score 27-7 in Powell’s favor.

Powell’s next score came with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter. Shifty sophomore Ryan Ferro raced 13 yards in for a score after uncorking a 27-yard run earlier in the four-play drive to get the football into the redzone for the Panthers.

Ferro scored again early in the fourth quarter as he went up over a Bison defender in the endzone to haul in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Cragoe to make the score 41-7 in favor of Powell with 10:50 to play.

“It was amazing,” Ferro said of his two-touchdown night. “The atmosphere here in the stadium, playing my first varsity game on the home field, it was just amazing out here tonight. I’m so happy.”

Buffalo’s final points came on a 64-yard touchdown run achieved against a mixture of Panther reserves in the final three minutes of the contest.

For the game, not much differentiated the Panthers and Bison in terms of overall statistics. Buffalo actually held a slim 274-264 advantage in yards gained, but owed much of their success to the long pass play in the second quarter and their late touchdown run.

Aside from that, the Panthers won the battle of field position throughout the contest, capitalizing on the opportunities they were given. Cragoe finished 5-for-11 passing for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Ferro was the leading receiver, pulling in two passes for 56 yards and also leading a parade of nine different ball carriers for Powell with 52 yards on five carries.

Defensively, Sleep led the way with 22 defensive points. The total came on three solo tackles, 11 assisted tackles and the fumble recovery late in the second quarter. Anthony Lujan added 18 points on two tackles for loss and 12 assisted tackles.

The Panthers remain at home this weekend to host Torrington. The Trailblazers enter the contest with an 0-1 mark after falling 33-30 to Worland last Friday night. Torrington did not play a game during week 1 of the high school football calendar.

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