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October 23, 2008 3:02 am

Wild West Showdown

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Quarterback Galen Mills (21) and the fourth-ranked Panthers will travel to face top-ranked Cody Friday in a game that will decide the Class 4A, West Conference championship. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Cody's C.R. “Spike” Vannoy Memorial Stadium. Tribune file photo by David Dickey

Conference title on the line Friday night

Class 4A's West Conference title will be decided when the Powell High School Panthers invade Cody's C.R. “Spike” Vannoy Memorial Stadium for a 7 p.m. showdown Friday.

Cody will enter the game as the top-ranked team in Class 4A, according to this week's ranking released by WyoPreps.com. Powell dropped from third to fourth in the rankings despite defeating third-ranked, Class 3A Lovell by 35 points last week.

October 23, 2008 3:01 am

Cross country season ends Saturday

PHS squads set sights on state meet

Powell High School's cross country teams will attempt to end the 2008 season on a solid note when they compete in the state meet Saturday at the Sheridan V.A. Hospital grounds.

The Lady Panthers enter the state event after winning the Class 3A West title last Friday in Worland. During that meet, the Lady Panthers placed five runners in the top nine spots in what proved to be a dominant performance.

They finished ahead of runner-up Jackson, the defending conference champs and winners of the 3A state title in 2007.

Leading the Lady Panthers' charge at the conference meet were freshmen runners Desiree Murray and Alyssa Rodriguez, who finished second and fourth overall. They will lead a Saturday lineup that includes Lauren Dunleavy, Skye Albert, Jordan Bigelow, Emily Schwahn and McKenzie Danforth. The alternate runner will be Kassey MacDonald.

Murray and Rodriguez, though in just their first year of varsity competition, have consistently been among PHS's top runners this season. Both, according to Murray, are looking to continue their success this weekend and help the team to its second state championship in three years. The Lady Panthers last won the state title in 2006.

“It should be a lot of fun this weekend,” Murray said. “It's been on my mind a lot this week, and I'm looking forward to it. Winning the state title is our primary goal, but we know there will be a lot of good teams there. The competition is going to be pretty tough, but if we can run together in a tight pack and finish strong like we did at the conference meet, we've got a good chance to win it.”

Murray also said the help of the veteran runners, particularly those who have competed in previous state meets, should help her and Rodriguez deal with added pressure that comes with a state meet. Those veteran runners, Murray said, have have helped her and her fellow freshman teammate all season long.

“They've all been very supportive,” Murray said. “Because of all the support and teamwork, we've all been able to accomplish a lot.”

On the boys side, senior Patrick Sullivan is expected to be the leader of a lineup that will include Patrick Voss, Danny McKearney, Tyler McCauley, Colton Smith, Alex Speiser and Devin Lynn. The alternate runner will be Jake Firnekas.

Sullivan, who has made major improvements in his times when compared to last year, earned a spot on the 3A West All-Conference squad with a ninth-place finish in Worland last Friday, and he believes the Panthers have a good shot at making the top three Saturday.

“If we run well like we did at the conference meet, we might be able to make the top three,” said Sullivan, who will be competing in his second state meet. “We know Jackson and Worland are going to be good, and Lander from the East has a good team this year. There will be a lot of good teams there, but we believe we've got a shot at placing.”

Devin Lynn, a junior who will be making his first appearance at a state cross country meet, shared the same outlook as Sullivan. Lynn was among a group of five runners who finished in spots 27 through 31 last week at the conference meet.

“I'm very excited about it,” Lynn said about qualifying for the state event. “We've got the potential to do pretty well.

The key for us will be to get as many runners in the top 10 as we possibly can.”

Both the Panthers and Lady Panthers have been training this week with a routine that closely mirrors what they've used all season. According to PHS head coach Cliff Boos, maintaining the status quo has proven to be the best way to approach the state meet.

“You just have to keep doing what you've been doing,” Boos said. “You don't want to make any major changes this close to it.”

Though only the state qualifiers and alternates are required to train during the week leading up to the season-ending meet, Boos said the practices have been filled with Panthers and Lady Panthers who finished their individual running seasons last week in Worland. That, he said, is a credit to the determination of PHS's runners. Boos also said that has helped the teams maintain a routine like they've used all season.

Wyatt Horner, the lone freshman for the Panther boys, said he's continued practicing in an effort to get better and support those who will have one last chance to run Saturday. According to Sullivan, that type of dedication doesn't go unnoticed.

“That kind of support means a lot,” Sullivan said. “I think it shows a lot of character and love for the sport.”

Sullivan also said the encouragement and time offered by the coaching staff, which includes assistant coach Ashley Hildebrand, has helped put both teams in a position to do well this weekend.

“Our coaches have been great,” Sullivan said. “They always take the time to work with everybody on the team, and they know what the needs are for each runner. They're really supportive, and they do a great job with the workouts and helping every person do the best they can.”

For the Lady Panthers, they will get their 3A title shot in the 10:30 a.m. race Saturday. The Panther boys will get their chance against the rest of Class 3A in the 12:15 p.m. race.

The Powell High School Lady Panthers enter the regional tournament this week with high hopes of starting a run at the state title.

For Kelsey Allen and Erica Woodward, this year's postseason also means the end of their volleyball careers, and the two seniors are practicing hard to make sure they end on a high note.

For Allen, that means trying to keep her skills sharp and hoping her sore ankle is well enough to take the court this weekend. For Woodward, it means preparing for whatever role she is assigned this weekend, stepping in wherever the team needs her, including the possibility that she will have to take on Allen's position.

But the goal for both is the same, helping their team challenge for the state championship.
“I'm excited for regionals and state,” Allen said. “I think we have a good chance of winning it.”

When asked about her ankle, Allen would only admit to its being “sore,” and added that she thinks she'll be ready to go by Friday.

The girls have traveled different paths as Lady Panthers. Allen stepped into the varsity libero position as a sophomore and has been the starter ever since. During that time, she has developed into a dependable defender on the back line and, when called upon, an effective server. She played a big role last year when the Lady Panthers won the conference and regional championships and earned their first trip to state in several years. Only a disappointing, hard-fought loss to Wheatland kept her and her teammates from playing for the championship.

Woodward has also played the libero position but on the junior varsity squad. This year is her first year on the varsity, and she has played a different role, filling in as a blocker or on the back line. Earlier in the year, she saw playing time when sophomore Randi Asay injured a knee and in last week's final conference game with Worland, where she stepped in for Allen and helped PHS keep its conference record perfect. She has also been effective from the service line, once serving four straight aces against Lovell.

“I didn't think I'd get to play much this year,” Woodward said, “but I've played a lot after Randi got hurt.

“Not that I'm glad Randi got hurt,” she added quickly.

Volleyball has been important to both girls, but especially to Allen. Even though she plays basketball, and a few weeks ago was elected homecoming queen, she still counts her time on the court as her best time at PHS.

“It's my top high school memory,” Allen said.

Woodward recalled the emotion of senior night this year, when she and Allen were honored by their teammates. She not only played extensively in the Lady Panthers' win over Cody that night, she also sang the National Anthem before the match.

“I cried that night,” Woodward said. “Before it started, Hannah (Pollart) told me not to cry, but then she was the first one to start crying.”

How will they feel when it's all over? That depends on how their last match turns out, and both girls hope it ends with a state title. Either way, though, they know it will be an emotional moment.

“We'll probably cry either way,” Allen said.

While Wyoming is faring better than most places in America economically, residents here still naturally worry about the economy. In recent weeks, Wall Street scares have placed the economy as the No. 1 issue for Wyoming voters.

In a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll for the Casper Star-Tribune, 65 percent of Wyoming voters polled said the economy was at the forefront of issues in the upcoming election. That number may not seem that high, considering the current state of America's economy, but in August, only 36 percent of voters rated the economy as their No. 1 issue, according to the Associated Press.

Going into the election, voters obviously expect politicians to address, and hopefully fix, America's declining economic condition.

Besides marking the ballot on Nov. 4 for the candidates who will best address economic troubles, voters can take action by shopping locally.

For the most part, money spent in the community stays in the community.

When schools, religious groups, non-profit organizations and others do fundraisers, Powell's businesses provide products and money over and over again. Our local commerce invests in the community, and now more than ever, it's time to invest in our local economy to keep it vital.

Another reason to shop local —which also ties into a hot issue in America at the moment — is that it's better for the environment. By shopping locally, we create less traffic and pollution.

In a few short weeks, all the frenzy of election campaigning and media coverage will dwindle, but the economy will remain a crucial challenge for newly-elected officials. While we can all hope that those who take the reins in the city, state and federal governments will help rebuild the nation's economy, we can do our part to shop local and encourage the economy at home.

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Jake Thiel, project engineer for Sletten Construction, looks out over the aquatic center site at Homesteader Park on Friday. Crews began digging for the new pool last week. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

Cap tax funding for project ahead of schedule

Sletten Construction crews began digging at the new aquatic center site in Homesteader Park last Thursday.

Construction for the project is expected to take a little more than a year.

Shawn Warner, president of Sletten Construction, said the recent snowstorm delayed starting the excavation by a few days.

The original contract set Nov. 1, 2009, as the completion date for the new aquatic center, but an extension of eight or nine weeks is expected, according to Project manager Nancy Ronto of Burbach Aquatics, Inc.

October 21, 2008 3:02 am

Legislators ponder wolves

The Wyoming Legislature's Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee met in Cody Thursday to discuss what Wyoming lawmakers should — or shouldn't — do about wolves.

On Friday, a similar hearing took place in Riverton.

Lawmakers and state officials are debating how to respond to U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy's ruling to nix U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List.

In July, Malloy ruled in favor of 12 conservation groups and issued an injunction against delisting the gray wolf, saying that the federal government failed to ensure the animal's genetic exchange between packs in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Fields in the Powell area continued to dry out from early October snow and rain that halted the sugar beet harvest.

Sugar content measured more than 17 percent as the Big Horn Basin sugar beet harvest resumed last week.

But up to 2 feet of snow, followed in some areas by a quarter-inch of rain, has kept some growers out of the field for more than a week.

Heart Mountain grower Paul Rodriguez said his family harvested some of their 1,365 acres before the Oct. 10 snowstorm began.

October 21, 2008 3:02 am

Lady Panthers win 3A West crown

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The Powell High School Lady Panthers claimed the Class 3A, West Conference crown Friday in Worland. Members of the team are (front row, left to right) Alyssa Rodriguez, Desiree Murray, (middle row, left to right) Chelsea Akin, Jordan Bigelow, Kristi Mingus, Lauren Dunleavy, Claire Wetzel, (back row, left to right) head coach Cliff Boos, Skye Albert, Kassey MacDonald, Tranyelle Coplen, Megan Darrow, McKenzie Danforth, Emily Schwahn and assistant coach Ashley Hildebrand. Courtesy photo/John Wetzel

Five PHS girls finish in top 10 at regional Competition

School officials at Powell High School will have to make room for more hardware in the school's trophy case thanks to the Lady Panthers' first-place finish at the Class 3A, West Regional meet at Green Hills Golf Course in Worland last Friday.

The Lady Panthers, who finished with 26 points during the cross country event, dethroned defending conference and state champion Jackson en route to their title performance. Jackson finished as the runner-up Friday with 41 points, and Cody was third with 72. Worland, Lyman and Lovell rounded out spots four through six.

Sophomore uprising

Northwest College celebrated sophomore night at Hank Cabre Gymnasium in Powell last Thursday by cruising to a 3-1 match victory against Central Wyoming College.

The match win was NWC's 14th straight since being swept in three sets by Western Nebraska Community College on Sept. 19 in the annual Wyoming-Nebraska Shootout. Thursday's victory, which was highlighted by a fast start for NWC, boosted the Lady Trappers' overall record to 33-7 and 8-1 in the North Sub-Region.

“I think we surprised Central by running a faster offense than we used against them earlier in the season,” said Flavia Siqueira, head coach of the Lady Trappers. “Our hitters were on top of the ball, and it looked like Central's defense was lost early in the match.”

NWC raced to a 6-1 advantage during the early stages of the first set, prompting CWC head coach Tiffany Stauffenberg to call a timeout in order to talk strategy with her Rustlers. The move proved to be of little help as NWC continued to dominate the set. The Lady Trappers, who led by as many as 15 points, won the first set 25-11.

CWC outside hitter Courtnie Trustem, a 2007 graduate of Powell High School, entered the contest with her squad trailing 10-3. When she checked out of the set, NWC was ahead by a comfortable 18-5 margin.

Trustem said the Rustlers fell in a hole early because of NWC's fast-paced approach on offense and due to the Rustlers playing timid.

“It's been a rough week for us because so many of us have been sick,” said Trustem. “Several of us have had or still have the flu, and our right-side hitter has pneumonia. I think that hurt us.”

Trustem also said when the Rustlers stepped on the court at Cabre Gym, she could sense something didn't feel normal. She attributed it to the recent rash of illnesses on the team and the shuffled lineup, which helped throw off CWC's timing and approach.

“The atmosphere felt weird,” Trustem said. “It just felt like something was wrong or a little off.”

The second set started much like the first one as NWC again established an early advantage. CWC fell behind 6-0 before a point by Tiffany Wilde put the Rustlers on the scoreboard. NWC, however, remained in control and led 11-3 by the time setter Abby Pollart checked in for the first time in the set. Pollart, a 2008 graduate of PHS, appeared to give the Rustlers a much-needed lift in the set and CWC reeled off three straight points before a kill by NWC sophomore Thabata Galvao put the score at 12-6 in favor of the Lady Trappers.

Pollart continued to set up the Rustlers for a number of kills and helped CWC cut its deficit to 12-9, but that's when NWC went on a 4-0 run for a 16-9 advantage. From that point, the Lady Trappers pulled away for a 25-14 decision.

The Rustlers, facing the prospect of being swept in three sets, rallied after the 10-minute break following the second set. NWC jumped ahead 10-4 following a kill by Gregg, but the Rustlers scored four straight points to cut the deficit to 10-8. Trustem, who checked back into the contest with CWC down 11-9, quickly registered a point to cut the Rustlers deficit to 11-10. CWC knotted the score at 12 and moved ahead by two before the Lady Trappers picked up two consecutive points by Angela Schuman. After Schuman tied it at 14, the two teams went into a see-saw battle, which saw the lead change four times in the next few minutes. Once the Rustlers pushed ahead 18-17, however, they were able to seal the deal and claim the third set 25-21.

Siqueira said the 10-minute break, like it has done on numerous occasions this season, caused her squad to lose focus.

“It seems like we lose our focus during the break,” Siqueira said. “It doesn't matter if we're on the road or at home, it always seems to affect us. We weren't focused, and Central came out and played a lot stronger.”

Any hopes the Rustlers had of continuing their comeback ended in the fourth set.

The score remained close in the early stages, and near the midway point, NWC was clinging to a 15-13 lead. At that point, NWC freshman outside hitter Rebekah DePesa scored two straight points to spur a 4-0 run that put NWC in control at 19-13. CWC would trim its deficit to four points on two occasions down the stretch before the Lady Trappers closed out the deciding set for a 25-19 decision.

“We did a better job of communicating on the court in the fourth set,” Siqueira said. “We also showed a little better focus.”

Coincidentally, Siqueira said her four sophomores were among the leaders for NWC during Thursday's victory.

Sophomore setter Carol Martin finished the match with 24 digs, 33 assists and two kills. Maddie Peterson, a sophomore outside hitter, added 11 kills, and Galvao finished with nine kills and 19 digs.

Lady Trapper Angela Schuman enjoyed a standout performance as well, finishing with eight kills and 16 digs.

“Angela had a great night,” Siqueira said. “Eight kills is a good number for her. She also finished with 16 digs, which was really strong for her. She came into the match averaging three digs per game.

“It was a great night for the team, particularly for our sophomores. They all played a major role in the outcome.”

In addition to recognizing its sophomores, NWC also honored its host families Thursday night. This year marks the first season the Trappers' host family program has been used in conjunction with sports teams at NWC, and it's proven to be a success. Prior to this season, the host family program was used with exchange students, which has included some athletes.

“The host families have been great,” Siqueira said. “It means a lot to the girls to have people from the community supporting them, and we're all very thankful for what they've done.”

Following Thursday's victory over CWC, the Lady Trappers faced Western Wyoming Community College at Hank Cabre Gymnasium in yet another North Sub-Region matchup.

WWCC, the team that handed NWC its only sub-region loss on Sept. 13, opened Friday's match with a 25-16 victory in the first set, but NWC came back to win the next three by scores of 25-11, 25-15 and 25-20 to extend its winning streak to 15 matches.

“I believe in the first set, our kids were too excited and too anxious to play, which caused some of them to lose focus,” Siqueira said. “But after that, we came back and played at our level. It was a great match to watch. Western had some great hits and rallies during the match. We scored 10 aces as a team, and I believe serving was a key factor in the match.”

Among NWC's leaders was Martin, who finished with 43 assists and 22 digs. Irelis Avendano added a team-high 15 kills, and Galvao and Peterson contributed with 12 kills each.

• Up next: NWC, which improved to 34-7 overall and 9-1 in sub-region competition with its victory over WCCC Friday, has three road matches scheduled this week against sub-region opponents.

On Thursday, they'll face Casper at 7 p.m. The Lady Trappers then will venture to Torrington to face Eastern Wyoming College Friday at 7 p.m. On Saturday, NWC will be in Cheyenne to take on Laramie County Community College.

PHS proves dominant in battle of third-ranked squads

Friday night's much-anticipated matchup between Powell and Lovell high schools proved to be nothing more than a small bump in the road for the third-ranked, Class 4A Panthers.

PHS held the third-ranked, Class 3A Bulldogs' spread-formation attack to one touchdown in what translated into a 42-7 beatdown. Among the keys to the victory for PHS (5-2 overall, 3-1 West) was its ability to contain Bulldog quarterback Grant Geiser, who entered the matchup as 3A's all-purpose yardage leader with 330.5 yards per contest. He also entered the game with an impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio of 17 touchdowns to three interceptions. That mark took a major hit Friday night, thanks to the Panthers.

PHS held Geiser to 19 completions for 206 yards on 38 attempts. He also tossed one touchdown pass, but was picked off four times. It was the second time this season Panther defense has finished a game with four interceptions. The other instance came against Star Valley, a team that also employs a spread offense.

According to Mike Heny, defensive coordinator for the Panthers, PHS middle linebacker Matt McArthur was the primary player used to mirror Geiser throughout the game. Though McArthur finished with just four defensive points,

Heny said the senior's contributions were extremely valuable. Heny also noted the strong play of the Panthers' defensive line and the secondary as keys to the victory.

“Matt was the primary guy we used to mirror everything that Geiser did,” Heny said. “He did a great job, and was able to keep Geiser from breaking any huge runs. He also put a lot of pressure on him throughout the game and forced quite a few bad throws.”

Geiser also saw plenty of Rustin Myrick and Ryan Brandt throughout the contest. Those two defenders, like McArthur, helped keep Geiser on the run all game long and both came through with a number of quarterback-hurries and sacks. Brandt finished the contest tied for the team lead in defensive points with 11. Included in his performance were a pair of sacks.

“I thought we had a good defensive package in place,” said PHS head coach Jim Stringer. “We had to adjust some early on, and we basically went with a nickel package against them. Once we settled down and once everybody took care of their responsibility instead of trying to do more than what we were asking of them, I thought we were fine.”

And whereas the Lovell offense came in with the hype generated by four straight games in which they scored 40 or more points, it was the Panther offense which stole the show Friday night by taking advantage of scoring opportunities.

Lovell (4-3) got the ball first Friday night, but quickly was forced to punt after a three-and-out from their own 20. PHS, following a punt return by Gavin Mills, set up at Lovell's 45 and needed just six plays to score. Auston Carter capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, and Drayson Bratt added the PAT for a 7-0 lead near the midway point of the opening quarter.

Lovell's ensuing possession proved disastrous as Geiser was pressured by Myrick on first down. Geiser was able to deliver a pass on the play, but it was brought down by PHS's Galen Mills at the Bulldogs' 34. Powell, however, quickly gave the ball back on the following play when it fumbled and Lovell's Dickerson fell on the loose ball.

The turnover gave the Bulldogs a new set of downs and new life, and they took full advantage of the opportunity by notching a 64-yard scoring drive, which was highlighted by a 45-yard completion from Geiser to Steven Durtsche to the PHS 2. After back-to-back penalties by Lovell, the Bulldogs finally reached the end zone on a 12-yard scoring strike from Geiser to Shane Dickerson. With the PAT, the score stood at 7-7 with 7:15 remaining to play in the first quarter.

The score remained tied until the second quarter when PHS's Galen Mills delivered a perfect throw for a 28-yard scoring pass to Trevor Donarski. Bratt's PAT gave Powell a 14-7 lead with 1:36 left before halftime. Donarski's touchdown helped cap an 83-yard scoring drive.

In the second half, the Panthers dominated on both sides of the ball. Lovell kicked off, and had the benefit of a 15-yard penalty assessed against the Panthers for being late in returning to the field. LHS's coaching staff opted for an an onside kick, but the ball hit and traveled backward before going out of bounds, leaving PHS with the ball at their own 46. From there, it took the Panthers just seven plays to score, this time on a 3-yard run by Donarski. Bratt again booted the PAT for a 21-7 lead.

The Panthers got their fourth touchdown of the game just before the end of the third quarter when Galen Mills threw a 15-yard scoring strike to his twin brother Gavin Mills. That score capped an 83-yard scoring march, which ended with another accurate PAT by Bratt.

Up 28-7, PHS continued to pull away from the Bulldogs when an interception by Gavin Mills set up PHS's offense at the Lovell 40 early in the fourth period. Once again, the PHS offense met little resistance from the Bulldog defense and reached the end zone on a 2-yard touchdown run by Billy Harshman with 7:08 to play. Bratt's PAT upped PHS's advantage to 35-7, but the Panthers weren't done putting points on the scoreboard.

The Bulldogs, desperately trying to crack the PHS defense for any type of positive yardage, endured their fourth interception of the game when Panther defensive back Jordan Brown picked off an errant Geiser pass. Shortly after, Harshman punched the ball into the end zone on an 8-yard run. Bratt's PAT following PHS's sixth touchdown of the night ended the scoring at 42-7 with 5:17 remaining.

Lovell continued to go to the air in the last minutes of the contest, but again found little success. PHS defender Reed Hackworth, who also spent time mirroring Geiser during the game, left his mark on the contest by snagging Powell's fourth interception of the night.

Defensively, Powell held Lovell to 206 passing yards, all by Geiser. On the ground, the Bulldogs finished with with minus-3 yards rushing on 12 attempts. Geiser finished with minus-2 yards rushing on the night. Lovell's top receiver was Durtsche, who had eight catches for 115 yards. Ben Long also was among LHS's reception leaders with two catches for 47 yards.

The Panther defense was paced by the 11-point defensive performances from Brandt and Brandon Sullivan. Gavin Mills added 11 defensive points, and Galen Mills contributed with nine.

Powell's offense boasted a number of strong performances, including that of Galen Mills, who completed seven of 10 passes for 103 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also had 12 carries for 72 yards.

Harshman added 17 rushes for 123 yards, and Carter finished with 56 yards on seven attempts. As a team, the Panthers finished with 308 rushing yards on 47 attempts.

The PHS receiving effort was paced by Brandt's 37 yards on two catches. Donarski and Gavin Mills also had two receptions each for 34 and 24 yards, respectively.

• Up next: The regular season will come to a close for the Panthers this Friday when they travel to face Cody (5-2 overall, 4-0 West) in what will be the most important game of the season for both teams. At stake Friday will be the West Conference title. If the Panthers can win the game, PHS and Cody will have identical 4-1 conference records.

However, by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker, Powell would be crowned the conference champ. A victory also would put the Panthers in a position to have their first two games of the postseason at Panther Stadium should they win the first contest of the playoff season.