“We’re happy and excited to come away with the win,” said Panther head coach Jim Stringer. “Any time you can come to Buffalo and come away with the win, it’s a pretty good deal. At the same time, we realize we could have played better and that gives us something to work on for the weeks ahead.”
Powell opened the scoring in the back-and-forth affair in the first quarter. After taking its first possession from the Powell 26 to the Bison 27, it appeared the Panthers’ hard work would have nothing to show for it after Cody Wichman came up just short on a 44-yard field goal attempt.
A roughing the kicker infraction whistled against Buffalo, however, breathed new life into the drive. With the football at the 13 and a fresh set of downs, the Panthers made Buffalo pay for the opportunity. Cragoe hooked up with Wichman from 9 yards out, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
Powell’s extra-point attempt was good, but got wiped off the scoreboard due to a penalty. The Panthers missed the subsequent point-after try.
Buffalo answered in short order. On just their third play from scrimmage, the Bison took advantage of a breakdown in pass coverage to pick up a 62-yard touchdown strike. The extra point was good, giving the host Bison a one-point lead with 50 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Powell worked the ball onto Buffalo’s side of the field twice in the second quarter, but came away empty both times. The Bison added the only points of the period, driving from the Powell 3 all the way to within 15 yards of paydirt before the drive stalled. The subsequent 32-yard field goal attempt split the uprights with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half, giving Buffalo a 10-6 lead at intermission.
“After we scorred, we sort of rested on our laurels,” Stringer said of the second quarter. “At halftime we were able to get together, re-focus and make a few adjustments that helped to slow down their rushing game a little.”
The Panthers took advantage of a Buffalo miscue to regain the lead early in the second half. A mishandled punt was recovered by the Panthers, giving the offense the football at the Buffalo 12. Two plays later, Cragoe carried the ball the final 5 yards to give the lead back to Powell 13-10.
The 3-point cushion proved to be short-lived. Buffalo returned the kickoff to the 41 and spent the next 12 plays pounding the football along the ground for a 59-yard touchdown drive. With the extra point, the Bison grabbed a 17-13 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
That score remained frozen on the scoreboard for much of the rest of the game. Powell threatened to immediately regain the lead, driving all the way to the Buffalo 13 before Cragoe’s third-and-4 pass was intercepted by the Bison.
Powell regained the football early in the fourth quarter and manufactured a 78-yard scoring drive. The Panthers made a pair of critical third-down conversions early in the possession as Cragoe hooked up with Hayden Cragoe for a 13-yard completion on third-and-9. Moments later, Cory Heny added a 17-yard snare of a third-and-4 pass to move the ball across midfield.
The Panthers mixed in some carries from Cooper Wise and Heny to move the ball to the 22. Another pass completion, this time from Cragoe to Olie Olson, moved the ball inside the 10. Two plays later, the Panthers scored.
“As the second half went along, we started playing better and executing better,” said Stringer. “When we do that, it allows us a little more versatility and we were able to run between the tackles, get outside a little on the perimeter and mix in some play action.”
Unofficially, Josh Cragoe finished with 55 yards rushing on 19 carries. He also completed nine of his 21 passing attempts for an additional 122 yards of offense through the air.
Hayden Cragoe and Olson each hauled in three of Cragoe’s passes. Heny picked up 31 yards on four carries and also pulled down one pass for 17 yards.
“Josh Cragoe played a heck of a game,” said Stringer. “He did a good job on the offense, and then defensively he picked off a pair of passes. Garrett Lynch also did a good job playing defensive end and anchoring one side of the defensive line.”
Defensive stats were not provided to the Panthers’ staff following the game.
With the win, Powell improves to 2-0 and will likely move up to take over Buffalo’s No. 2 ranking when the new Wyopreps coaches and media poll is released this week. Powell travels to Torrington this Friday for a game that will present a challenge to the Panthers both due to the length of the bus trip and the unknown opponent.
“All we know about them is what we’ve seen on film the past two weeks,” said Stringer, noting the Trailblazers are implementing a new offensive and defensive scheme this season under a new coaching staff. “They’re struggling a bit with the new system, but they like to run a lot of single-back sets and run some sweeps and quick screens.”
Torrington was shut out 33-0 by Worland last Friday night. The Trailblazers were also on the short side of a 46-8 score against Chadron, Neb., in week 1.