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September 24, 2013 7:43 am

Panther defense torches Torrington

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Powell’s Ty Herd breaks through the Torrington defense during the Panthers’ 39-15 victory against the Trailblazers Friday night. Herd rushed eight times for 37 yards. Powell’s Ty Herd breaks through the Torrington defense during the Panthers’ 39-15 victory against the Trailblazers Friday night. Herd rushed eight times for 37 yards. Tribune photo by Greg Wise

The Powell Panthers scored two defensive touchdowns in the second half Friday night to beat the Torrington Trailblazers 39-15 and remain undefeated.

 

Dillon Ohman blocked and returned a punt for a touchdown in the third quarter and Cory Heny intercepted a pass for a touchdown in the fourth as the Panther defense bounced back after allowing a touchdown on Torrington’s opening drive.

Powell (3-0) was down 7-0 early in the first quarter after the Trailblazers scored on a 72-yard touchdown drive. The seven-point deficit was the largest the Panthers have faced all season.

The Panthers traveled around seven hours cross-state to play in Torrington, which may have been a factor in the sluggish start.

“We just needed to settle in and get our legs underneath us,” said head coach Jim Stringer.

It took all of a half-quarter to settle in as Powell responded with a 19-yard touchdown run by senior Garrett Lynch.

Powell’s running game totaled 255 yards and three touchdowns.

Heny ran for 98 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put the Panthers up 20-7 heading into the locker room.

Quarterback Hayden Cragoe got in on the ground as well. The senior rushed for 31 yards and a score on three carries.

Cragoe was 10-for-20 through the air, giving the senior a 50 percent completion rate hurt by a few drops early on.

“He threw some balls that should have been caught,” Stringer said.

Cragoe also threw one interception, his second in two games.

Junior Kalei Smith caught only two balls, but one went for a 14-yard touchdown, giving him a receiving score in every game this season. Three of Smith’s six receptions this season have gone for TDs.

Junior Brendon Phister (three catches, 59 yards) was Powell’s leading receiver.

Cragoe, as Powell’s free safety, along with defensive back Phister, made a couple of crucial open field tackles in the Panther secondary.

Torrington rushed for 114 yards and passed for 168 — both season-highs by Panther opponents.

Powell gave up more yards than it’s accustomed to but also forced four turnovers to keep Torrington out of the end zone and to get the Panther offense back on the field.

Stringer said the Panthers will be in good shape this season if they continue to win the turnover battle each week.

“We work an awful lot on creating turnovers,” Stringer said. “It’s worked out well for us.”

Heny picked off two passes, including his 64-yard return for a touchdown.

Smith intercepted a pass at Powell’s own 10-yard line and returned it across midfield to the Torrington 40.

Ohman had one solo tackle and six tackle assists to complement his touchdown for 15 total defensive points.

Cragoe, Phister and senior Tony Lujan each earned 11 defensive points.

Defensive points are awarded to players based on the defensive plays they make within a game. For example, a player can get two points for each solo tackle he makes and one point for every assisted tackle. Sacks are worth three points and interceptions are worth five.

Powell’s kicking game continues to be an issue as the team heads into conference play.

Smith was 3-for-6 on PAT kicks and is now 11-for-19 on the season.

“About all you can do is keep practicing,” Stringer said. “You just have to keep plugging along and let it come around. I have no doubt (Smith’s) going to finish off the season well.”

The Panthers have been fortunate they have not played in games close enough for the missed kicks to be costly, but Stringer said eventually the PATs will factor into the outcome.

Games will start to matter a little more this week as Powell hosts the Jackson Broncs for its Class 3A West opener.

Stringer said the Panthers are going to mix things up in practice a bit this week in an effort to keep monotony from settling in.

The Broncs will show the Panthers a lot of a double-wing formation, which they will use as part of their run-heavy offense.

Stringer said Powell will counter with some different looks on defense, including a five-man defensive line. The coach said he expects junior Garrett Michael to step in as the extra man but will rotate a few guys in throughout the game.

Powell will take on Jackson (2-1) at 6 p.m. Friday at Panther stadium.

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