The Broncs (0-1, 2-2) averaged 481.3 yards per game in their three contests prior to Friday but managed only 150 yards on the ground against the Panthers (1-0, 4-0), who had allowed only 59.3 rushing yards per game.
Powell forced and recovered two Jackson fumbles. Garrett Lynch and Zach Thompson each emerged from piles with the loose ball.
Lineman Riley Stringer led the team with 26 defensive points.
Head coach Jim Stringer was pleased with all facets of his team’s play, including its defensive front.
“There’s no question our defensive line just had a great game,” Stringer said.
The Panthers had been preparing for Jackson’s relentless run game all week, and it was clear they were ready.
“(We) played a very, very good game,” Stringer said. “Against us, (the Broncs) were never able to pop those really big runs.”
Jackson had no real big passes either. Powell held the pass-averse Broncs to just one completion for 3 yards.
Without the big play, Jackson had little hope of creating a substantial lead, and even less hope of coming back from a substantial deficit.
That’s why Stringer made it a point for his team to get on top quickly. Powell’s first score came on a play that got the Panther fans and players excited.
What looked to be a routine run play to Cory Heny turned into a quick six points when Heny pitched the ball back to quarterback Hayden Cragoe who then fired it down field to the streaking Brendon Phister.
Stringer said he had the flea flicker in his pocket and was happy to use it when the moment presented itself.
“I just wanted to have a little fun, so something a little bit different,” he said. “I thought it was kind of kind of fun to fire the kids up. It got them going, got the crowd jazzed.”
It was the first of three touchdown passes for Cragoe, who finished his best game of the season 13-for-18 for 255 yards and no picks.
“He was seeing things really well and he made some laser-pinpoint throws,” Stringer said.
Cragoe would score on a quarterback keeper later in the first quarter to put the Panthers up 12-0.
The score remained unchanged until just 25 seconds were left in the first half.
With the ball at their own 40 the Panthers were not content with going into halftime with a 12-point lead.
“This team is a pretty experienced team and has a good understanding of our offense,” Stringer said. “We let Hayden take over and he saw something.”
What he saw led to a 59-yard touchdown pass to Heny, who had a step on his man along the left sideline.
The Panthers came out in the second half and scored three more touchdowns — two on the ground and through the air.
Heny rushed for 66 yards on 15 carries and a score while Lynch carried the ball six times for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Ty Herd didn’t find the end zone in this game but did lead the Panthers in rushing with 84 yards on just eight carries.
Cragoe’s last touchdown pass went to Kalei Smith, who has caught a touchdown every game this season, including the week 0 game against Miles City.
Stringer praised his offense’s “extremely well-balanced” attack. Cragoe completed passes to eight different receivers and five different Panthers found the end zone.
And unlike previous games, the Powell receivers didn’t let Cragoe down by dropping his passes.
“In this game they just did a much better job of catching the ball,” Stringer said. “That just gave Hayden a lot of confidence ... If we catch the ball and are a little bit more consistent there’s no reason he can’t throw 70-75 percent completion.”
Point-after tries were attempted by Jaron Smith, who replaced Kalei Smith (no relation), as the team’s placekicker. Kalei had struggled with point-after tries in the season’s early going and coach Stringer felt making the switch was the right move for the team.
“We saw a little bit better consistency in Jaron,” Stringer said. “You just think overall it’s going to be better for the team.
“Kalei’s got a good attitude. He wants to see us continue being successful,” Stringer said. “I think he’s handled it very well.
“He came out this week and caught a touchdown pass and did a good job on the punt.”
Powell continues its division schedule with a marquee week 5 match-up at the Star Valley Braves.
Stringer said he expects the Braves to bring the same level of competition they did in last year’s Class 3A title game, which Powell won 13-10.
“They’re a very good team,” Stringer said of the Braves. “I have no doubt it’s going to be a barnburner.”
Star Valley is 2-2 after losing its season opener to Snake River, Idaho and again in week 3 to No. 2 Douglas.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday in Afton.