Team dispatches Lander with ease
An expected slugfest between two schools battling for home-field advantage in the first round of the 3A football playoffs turned into a decidedly one-sided affair on Friday night. The Powell Panthers, unranked for the first time all season, cruised to a 21-7 victory over Lander.
The Panthers host Riverton this Friday at 7 p.m. in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
“I thought the kids played well,” said Panther football coach Jim Stringer. “Our secondary in particular played very well in shutting down a fairly prolific receiver in number 13 (Lander junior Tanner Simpson).”
In reality, it wasn't just Simpson that the Panthers' defensive backs shut down. For yet another Friday night, Powell's secondary put the clamps on an opponent's entire passing playbook.
Lander completed just six of 26 passing attempts for 91 yards. Four of those six completions and all but 11 of the passing yards came on Lander's final possession of the game.
Powell intercepted Lander quarterback Austin Roberts three times in the contest. Junior Olie Olson was responsible for two of those picks as he ran his state-leading interception count for the season to eight.
Offensively, junior Josh Cragoe scored all three of Powell's touchdowns on the night. Cragoe opened the scoring eight minutes into the contest, taking a third-and-11 pass 18 yards for a score. Eight minutes later, the junior appeared to take the identical play 43 yards for a score, hurdling a Lander defender in the process.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Cragoe broke off a 16-yard run for Powell's final touchdown. Junior placekicker Cody Wichman was a perfect 3-for-3 on his point-after attempts as Powell raced for a 21-0 lead.
“We did what we had to do,” Cragoe said of the team's performance. “We made the plays when we needed to.”
Lander didn't crack the scoreboard until 2:08 remained to be played.
For the game, Cragoe accounted for 163 of the 354 offensive yards amassed by the Panthers. The junior carried the ball 11 times for 61 yards. He also hauled in a half-dozen Keithen Schwahn passes for 102 yards.
“In all honesty, we gameplanned to get him involved because we knew he was capable of having this sort of night,” said Stringer. “We used some different offensive strategies to take advantage of their aggressive defensive ends by running some screens and some veer stuff. We knew if we could find ways to get the ball to him, that he'd be successful.”
Schwahn finished the contest with 196 passing yards. The junior signal caller was 10-for-16 through the air with two touchdowns and one interception. Senior Colby Gilmore, back in uniform after missing some playing time nursing an ankle injury, came in and provided a spark with 34 yards on six carries.
Defensively, Olson led the charge with 19 points, buoyed by his two interceptions. The junior also had four unassisted tackles to show for a night where the Panthers' defense held Lander to just 208 yards of offense.
Cragoe added an 18-point night with Powell's other interception and three solo and five assisted tackles. Vince Sleep was the only other Panther defender to reach double figures in defensive points. Sleep, who entered the game leading Wyoming in defensive points per game, ended with 12 points on one solo and eight assisted tackles. Sleep also had a pass breakup to his credit.
The Panthers host Riverton this Friday in a 7 p.m. state quarterfinal game. The winner will face the winner of the Douglas-Star Valley game being played that same day. Cody hosts Wheatland and Buffalo hosts Lander in the state's other 3A quarterfinal contests.
“It is really nice to have another home game,” said Stringer. “We don't have a problem with going anywhere to play anyone, but it's a great opportunity for our fans to watch us play and for our kids, especially the seniors, to have another chance to play at home.”
Gates to the stadium will open at 6 p.m. on Friday. Since the contest is a Wyoming High School Activities Association contest, admission will be charged at $5 for adults and $3 for students.
The Panthers knocked off Riverton by a 13-10 count to open the regular season.
“It's always harder to beat a team the second time,” Stringer said. “We'll have to gameplan hard and treat them like a new opponent. A lot changes over eight weeks. They're a different team than what they were when they came here in early September and we're a different team from then too."
Friday, Oct. 29
Riverton (5-3) at Powell (5-3)
Class 3A quarterfinals
Kickoff 7 p.m., Gates open at 6 p.m.
Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for students.