The high school football season is just two weeks old, but already there's plenty to talk about. The latest Wyopreps.com media and coaches' poll has bumped the Panthers to No. 4 in advance of Friday night's road showdown at No. 2 Buffalo (Douglas is No. 1, Cody No. 3 and Riverton No. 5 for those curious).
That head-to-head clash on the other side of the Big Horn Mountains may well be the game of the week in Wyoming 3A football this Friday night. After all, Powell and Buffalo are two of the remaining four unbeaten teams in the class.
But that's not really the big story coming out of the Powell locker room early on this season.
The early-season head-turner has been the Panthers' perfect 10 —10 interceptions in just two games by the Powell High School secondary. Put another way, Powell's defense, through two games, has caught two more passes than its receiving corps has, and without the benefit of a quarterback that's actively trying to throw the football to it.
The Sports Guy has stood on the sidelines of many, many prep football fields over the years. The six picks he witnessed last Friday night against Wheatland may well have been a first in that decade and a half. Gut instinct leads me to believe that accomplishment has to at least be in the neighborhood of a state record — except it seems the state of Wyoming is somewhat lacking in the record book department when it comes to high school football achievements.
I do, however, have in my hands a copy of the Panthers' team stats dating back to 2003. According to that sheet, the most interceptions recorded by the team over the course of an entire season has been 10, accomplished by the 2005 defensive unit (although the stat apparently wasn't tracked in either the ‘07 or the ‘08 seasons). Powell matched last year's total of six interceptions in just 48 minutes of play this past Friday.
Look, I'm a realist. I know the trend probably won't last. Sooner or later, someone is going to get their hands on some game film and realize that putting the ball in the air against this unit might not be the soundest of strategies. When that occurs, two things will happen.
First, Powell's defensive front seven will have a chance to step up and showcase their mettle. Second, it likely will spell fewer opportunities for the Panthers' secondary to get its hands on footballs.
Or maybe it won't. Powell junior Olie Olson snatched three balls out of the sky in the Panthers' opening week win against Riverton. Guess who Wheatland targeted on the first passing play last Friday night.
Regardless of what happens this weekend and in the weeks ahead, Panther fans have already witnessed a special rarity.
Defensive performances like last Friday night's don't come along every week, or even every season. Hopefully the fans that turned out for the Wheatland contest understand and appreciate the uniqueness of the moment. Hopefully the players both take a measure of pride in accomplishing it and feel a pang of hunger to repeat the achievement.
In any event, from the pass rushers hurrying opposing quarterbacks into making bad decisions to the guys in the back that are finding the football, here's a tip of the ol' ballcap in recognition and appreciation. Keep at it boys!