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October 04, 2012 8:03 am

Panthers stay atop 3A poll

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Win over No. 2 not enough for unanimity

A 13-0 shutout of No.2 Star Valley was more than enough to keep the Powell Panthers firmly entrenched as the No. 1 team in Wyoming 3A football, according to the latest Wyopreps coaches and media poll. It wasn’t enough to convince all of the state’s voters, however.

After picking up 22 of the 24 first place votes a week ago, Powell picked up 23 of 24 first place votes this week to easily rank atop the Class 3A standings. At 5-0, the Panthers are the only undefeated team remaining in Class 3A football. The lone hold-out voter placed the Panthers No. 2, giving Powell 357 out of a maximum 360 points in this week’s poll.

Star Valley remained No. 2 despite the loss to the Panthers. Star Valley received 19 second-place votes and 270 points overall. Green River, the only other school to receive a first-place vote this week, was third with 198 points.

Douglas (135 points) and Riverton (117 points) round out the top five in this week’s polls. Cody was the only other team to receive votes in this week’s Wyopreps 3A poll. The Broncs picked up a lone fifth-place vote.

This week, the Panthers return to the road to face Worland, 2-3 overall and 0-2 in 3A West play. The Warriors scored non-conference wins over Torrington (33-30) and Rawlins (52-42) to begin the year 2-1, but have struggled in conference play, entering Friday’s game on back-to-back losses to Star Valley (47-7) and Green River (48-13).

From those scores, it isn’t difficult to pinpoint the Warriors’ struggles this season. Defensivley, Worland has surrendered 40 or more points in four of their five games this season. Even in their best defensive performance to date, the Warriors allowed 30 points to Torrington.

If that’s not enough to get the Panther offense licking its chops, then the next stat should. The Warriors currently allow an average of 461 yards per game to opponents, including surrendering nearly 300 yards per contest along the ground.

While the Panthers are still in search of their first 100-yard rushing game this season, Powell does enter the game with an offense that ranks among the state’s leaders, averaging 365 yards per contest. Hayden Cragoe ranks third in Class 3A in passing yardage per game with 153 yards per contest. Dewey Schwahn is the No. 1 scorer in Class 3A and ranks No. 2 in receiving yardage per contest with 64 yards per game. Cragoe and Schwahn have hooked up on eight touchdown plays already this year.

Offensively, the Warriors are utilizing more of a spread look than in seasons past. That formula has allowed them to field the state’s top receiver through five weeks as Jacob McGarvin averages 78 yards per game. Nat Barrus also ranks among 3A’s top 10 receivers, averaging 40 yards in receptions per game.

“It’s a risk-reward sort of offense,” said Powell head coach Jim Stringer. “It can pick up yards in chunks when it’s hitting, but it can also result in some quick three-and-outs if you can’t complete those passes.”

Three and outs are something the Panthers’ defensive unit has specialized in this season. Powell allows a 3A-best 183 yards per game to opponents. Vince Sleep currently ranks fourth on the Class 3A defensive points chart for the season. Anthony Lujan sits at No. 10 as the pair of linebackers have been active on a weekly basis for Powell.

In the Panthers’ secondary, which will be tested this week, Powell allows a state-low 83 passing yards per game. For the third consecutive season, the Panthers are the overwhelming leaders in Class 3A in interceptions. The team has picked off 11 balls through five weeks of the season, including six by Cragoe, who leads the state in picks.

Friday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the 30s with a threat of snow and rain throughout the day. Temps could drop to below freezing during the game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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