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PHS falls to defending state champs Star Valley, 40-7

Panther quarterback Kaelan Groves looks for daylight against Green River in a game earlier this month. The Panthers traveled to Afton Friday to take on the defending state champion Star Valley Braves, losing 40-7. Panther quarterback Kaelan Groves looks for daylight against Green River in a game earlier this month. The Panthers traveled to Afton Friday to take on the defending state champion Star Valley Braves, losing 40-7. Tribune photo by Mark Davis

Big first half by Braves too much to overcome

The Powell Panthers football team traveled to play the No. 1 team in the state Friday and found Star Valley to be all they could handle, losing 40-7 in Afton.

The defending state champion and undefeated Braves took advantage of several second quarter miscues by the Panthers, resulting in a short field and jumping out to a quick lead, catching Powell off guard and not allowing the 1-6 Panthers (1-4 in conference) to find their rhythm.

“It’s always a tough place to play and that’s a very very good Star Valley team, but we went toe-to-toe with them for two quarters, so I was really pleased with that,” Panthers head coach Chanler Buck said.

With the win over the Panthers, the Braves are now on a 13-game winning streak.

“We knew what we were getting ourselves into going down there against the No. 1 team in the state,” Buck said.

In the Braves’ opening drive, they incurred three penalties — a false start followed by an illegal block and concluded with a call for too many men in motion — and punted to Powell. After a three-and-out from the Panthers, the Braves received the ball on their own 29 yard line and marched the ball down the field. Kaelan Groves broke up a Star Valley pass in the end zone to save a touchdown, but the Braves eventually broke through to go up 7-0 with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Powell moved backwards in four out of five plays and the Braves took over on the Panther 47-yard line, resulting in a touchdown with 10:07 remaining. The Braves faked a PAT and the Panthers’ thwarted the 2-point conversion, limiting the lead to 13-0.

On Powell’s next possession, the team went three-and-out, and the snap for the punt went over Josh Wolfe’s head, resulting in the Braves taking over on the Panthers’ 5-yard line. The Braves scored again with 8:10 remaining and led 20-0.

Buck said the team knew that, to have some success, they were going to have to execute flawlessly.

“A good team takes advantage of those types of situations and that’s exactly what happened in the second quarter,” Buck said.

With 6:07 on the clock, a pass was intercepted around the Panther 20-yard line and resulted in another Braves’ touchdown. The Braves PAT was no good, but Star Valley had a 26-0 lead.

With 3:12 left in the first half, the Braves then blocked a Wolfe punt to take over on Powell’s 26-yard line. The short field gave the Braves time to score one last time before halftime, going into the locker room with a 33-0 lead.

“I thought we could have started faster with a little more energy early in the game,” Buck said. “That second quarter was certainly the deciding factor.”

At halftime, Star Valley had a total of 251 yards on offense, whereas Powell only had 41.

“Aside from the scoreboard going into halftime, I was really pleased with how we responded coming out in the third,” Buck said.

In the third quarter, Powell held Star Valley scoreless and put up seven of their own points with a 27 yard pass from Groves to Luke Washington. That brought the score to 33-7 going into the final quarter of play.

With 5:29 remaining in the game, the Braves scored their final touchdown of the night for a score of 40-7.

“I was really proud of our kids with the way they responded — just overall their attitude and their will to keep fighting and our productivity showed for it on offense and defense,” Buck said.

In the second half, the Panthers shifted into lockdown mode, holding the Braves to just 76 yards in the last two quarters. Star Valley would finish with 327 yards on offense for the game, whereas the Panthers more than tripled their offensive production for a total of 178 yards.

Powell finished the game with only one 5-yard penalty, while the Braves amassed a total of eight. The Panthers had no turnovers in the second half.

For the Panthers, Groves went 10 for 21 under center for 84 yards, with one touchdown pass and one interception. Washington had three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.

On the ground, A.J. Lewis had 15 carries for 119 yards, while Groves had 12 carries for 25 yards and was sacked five times.

Star Valley’s Hunter Jacobson led the way for the Braves with 130 yards on the ground, while Josh Dawson had 90 all-purpose yards for the defending champions.

The final game for the Panther’s 2017 season will be this Friday in Cody at 7 p.m.

“It’s a healthy rivalry and I think our teams match up well and it should be a good football game,” Buck said.

Cody is firmly seeded in the No. 3 slot for the 3A West Conference.

“It’s a good opportunity to finish this thing strong and do it the right way,” Buck said.

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