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Missed chances: Despite solid defense, Panthers come up short to Green River, 26-7

Powell’s Josh Wolfe (24) runs back a fake punt for a 63-yard touchdown in the third quarter of Friday’s home game against Green River. It was the Panther’s sole touchdown in the 26-7 loss. Powell’s Josh Wolfe (24) runs back a fake punt for a 63-yard touchdown in the third quarter of Friday’s home game against Green River. It was the Panther’s sole touchdown in the 26-7 loss. Tribune photo by Mark Davis

In what was billed as a matchup of the state’s No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, the Powell Panthers football team struggled offensively, falling 26-7 to Green River.

“Little mistakes, little things that make a big difference, unfortunately — and that seems like that’s been our story this year,” said Panthers head coach Chanler Buck. “We’re just developing in a way that small components are still missing.”

Coming into the game, the Wolves (5-1 overall) had averaged 409.6 yards per game, 222.8 yards passing and 186.8 rushing yards. The Panthers’ defense, meanwhile, had allowed an average of only 203.5 yards per game.

On Friday night, the Panthers held the Wolves to only 245 yards — 100 yards rushing and 145 passing.

“Defensively we made a really good Green River team look OK because of how well we played,” said Buck.

The coach said the objective was to contain Green River quarterback Chance Hofer, who leads the state in all purpose yards (281.4 yards per game). He completed 11 for 21 passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns.

“He’s a special quarterback,” Buck said. “He didn’t have an opportunity to shine because of what we were able to do up front.”

Offensively, the Panthers compiled a total of 217 yards, including 132 yards on the ground.

Josh Wolfe led the way with 75 yards rushing on two carries. Panthers quarterback Kaelan Groves completed seven of 18 passes for 85 yards and picked up 49 rushing yards on 15 carries. A.J. Lewis had 3 yards on three carries and Ethan Asher had one carry for 7 yards.

Defensively, the Panthers broke up four passes versus one for the Wolves.

“We emphasize a couple of things each week and my evaluation is, of tonight, I was pleased of what we were able to accomplish,” Buck said. He specifically mentioned special teams.

“I thought this was one of the best special teams games we’ve had,” said Buck, “especially with field possession.”

The Wolves drew first blood, scoring the first touchdown of the game with 1:27 remaining in the first quarter. The Panthers’ defense kept things close, though, and Powell went into the locker room at halftime trailing just 7-0. The Panthers struggled on offense, totaling just 13 yards in the first frame. Powell’s offense ranks 12th in the state, averaging 194.2 yards per game.

However, with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter, Powell’s Josh Wolfe scored a 63-yard touchdown on a fake punt to tie the game up at 7-all.

About five minutes later, the Wolves scored the go-ahead touchdown to take a 14-7 lead.

Starting their next possession on the 20-yard line, the Panthers killed the drive with a false start and two botched snaps — one that resulted in Groves being tackled in the end zone for a safety.

From there, the Wolves went on to win 26-7.

“It’s tough for the 13 seniors tonight to walk away with this one as their senior night memory,” Buck said of the loss in the last home game of the season.

One shoutout Buck wanted to give was to “the defensive line, they did a good job.”

On defense, Lewis led with 14 points, recording eight assisted tackles, three unassisted tackles and one quarterback sack.

Both Max Gallagher and Groves picked up 11 points. Gallagher had three assisted tackles, one unassisted tackle, one tackle for a loss and one quarterback sack. He’s ranked 17th in the state in points.

Groves had seven assisted tackles, two unassisted tackles and broke up one pass.

In total, the Panther defense sacked Green River’s quarterback three times, with the third recorded by Carson Heinen.

Buck said he was pleased with how physical the Panthers played and the overall energy of the team

Next up, the Panthers (1-5 overall) travel to take on undefeated Star Valley (6-0) on their home turf for the Braves’ homecoming, with kickoff slated for 4 p.m.

“It’s always a unique game when you have to travel to Afton,” said Buck adding that the Braves are “the best football team we’ll see all year.”

While the Panthers will need to clean up things offensively, Buck said “with our arsenal defensively, I like where we are at and what our abilities are in comparison to what they do offensively. I like our matchups there.”

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