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Panthers win third-straight title in OT

Powell junior Kalei Smith turns upfield for a 49-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter of the Panthers' dramatic 19-13 overtime victory in the Class 3A title game Friday night. Powell junior Kalei Smith turns upfield for a 49-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter of the Panthers' dramatic 19-13 overtime victory in the Class 3A title game Friday night.

At times it looked grim, painful even, but when all was said and done, it looked very familiar.

The Powell Panthers won their third-straight Class 3A football title Friday night by beating the Douglas Bearcats 19-13 in overtime. After the game players, coaches, fans and parents joined on the field to exchange hugs and take photos as a confetti-like snow fell on their heads.

"It's a great fitting end to a season like this," said head coach Jim Stringer.

Every facet of Powell's team contributed to the overtime victory.

Quarterback Hayden Cragoe pounded the ball up the middle and into the endzone from two yards out on Powell's first overtime possession to win the game.

“I knew he wasn't going to stop churning his feet until someone chopped his legs off or he was in the endzone,” Stringer said.

Cragoe was in position to score thanks to the job done by Powell's offensive line.

"When it counted they moved the ball 10 yards on three run plays and helped win us the game,” Stringer said.

The offense got a chance to clinch the title because Powell's defense came up big on the series prior.

Douglas started the overtime period on offense and ran the ball to the 1-yard line on second down, but Powell's defensive front stuffed the Bearcats' best efforts. A fourth-and-one run up the middle was stopped just shy of the goal line, meaning any subsequent Powell score would end the game

"That just came down to heart," said senior defensive end Tony Lujan. "It just came down to us playing harder than they did."

Stringer said winning a state title in dramatic fashion is a lot of fun, though maybe not the best for one's health.

"I'd like to maybe win one without having a heart attack at the end of it," the coach said.

The Panthers won the game despite being shutout in the first half, something that hadn't happened to them all season.

But the defense kept it close, and Powell's offense finally struck with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter.

Junior wideout Kalei Smith beat his man on a skinny post for a 49-yard touchdown reception.

"Hayden just threw the perfect pass and it just came right into my hands," Smith said, who outran the diving grasp of the last Douglas defender on his way to the game-tying score.

Powell's next touchdown would come just minutes later.

Junior Carter Baxter picked off Douglas' Austyn Matthews in the middle of the field and gave Powell the ball back deep Bearcat territory.

Cragoe rolled to his left from the 17-yard line and fired the ball the the left side of the endzone, where Powell's Garrett Lynch was the intended target. The ball was deflected, however, and Panther senior Brendon Phister dove and snatched it out of the air for the unconventional score.

Powell's point-after try hit the right upright, making the score 13-7 with 11:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Douglas answered with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Matthews to Chance Miller. The ensuing extra point kick was blocked by defensive lineman Riley Stringer and the game was tied at 13 at the end of four quarters.

Cragoe was six-for-19 for 106 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, plus the winning touchdown run.

Matthews was seven-for-22 for 135 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Each quarterback was sacked four times, but no sack was timelier than Zach Thompson's take down of Matthews on the final play of the first half. Douglas was poised to make it a two-score game after a 47-yard Barker run put the ball on the PHS 10. The Bearcats elected to pass on third-and-10 with 15 seconds left, but good pass coverage gave Thompson enough time to come off the left edge and bring Matthews to the turf.

"If we don't make that sack and they get a chance to get the field goal team on the field, then maybe they put three on the board," Stringer said.

Thompson had three and one half sacks in the game.

Douglas' Logan Barker ran for 121 yards on 22 carries.

Powell's Ty Herd led the Panthers with 43 yards on 11 carries.

Phister led the team with six solo tackles and seven assisted tackles.

Panthers Cragoe and Ryan Ferro each had an interception.

Defensive tackle Riley Stringer was credited with a half-sack.

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