The Powell Panthers emerged triumphant in their Friday night Homecoming game, beating Riverton 23-18.
Running back T.J. Abraham made the most of his return to full-time action, dodging and darting through the Riverton defense to the tune of nearly 200 yards and a touchdown.
“T.J. made a big difference, and one of the keys was that we switched up some of our blocking schemes to spread out those big guys they had on defense,” Powell High School head football coach Chanler Buck said. “I was very happy with how our front five blocked and then T.J. just did what he does.”
Both teams came in looking for their first win, each having dropped the first two games of the season. After the Powell defense turned the ball over on downs at its own 32, the offense began to march.
Abraham carried twice for 11 yards before quarterback Mason Olsen connected on three straight passes for 31 yards, to get the ball to the Wolverine 24.
From there, Abraham broke out on an 18-yard scamper and two, 2-yard bursts to put the Panthers near the goal line.
Olsen then found Kaelan Groves in the end zone with a short pass for the opening score of the game with 3:24 to play in the first.
Brekyn Herd split the uprights for the extra point and the lead was 7-0. Powell would add to it less than two minutes later.
On Riverton’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Brady Fullerton overthrew a pass into the waiting arms of Panther defensive back Paige Gann for an interception at the Powell 42.
Abraham had three straight carries totaling 39 yards, with a 3-yard Herd run getting it to the Wolverine 16.
A penalty and two incomplete passes stalled the drive at the 21, but freshman kicker Garrett Stutzman got just enough behind a kick to clear the crossbar for a 38-yard field goal to make it a 10-0 game.
The Riverton offense, which put up 36 points in the previous week’s loss to Green River, then started to move the ball. Bridging into the second quarter, Fullerton hit a number of his big receivers for gains.
A pass to 6’ 3” Teron Doebele brought it to the Panther 27. However, when Riverton later took a shot at the end zone, a jarring, mid-air hit by Olsen separated a Wolverine receiver from the ball and Gann dove to gather in his second interception of the game.
Powell’s next drive failed to add to the lead and the Wolverines were soon back on the prowl.
A 10-play drive covered 54 yards and culminated in a Fullerton to Doebele pass for a 15-yard touchdown at the 5:40 mark.
The two-point attempt went for naught, but the game was now a tight 10-6 margin and would stay there into halftime.
“Defensively we did a real good job taking away their running game and we were consistent in matching their physicality,” Buck said. “We had some mismatches with their big receivers, and there was potential there for them to make some big plays.”
Opening up the third quarter, Riverton made use of a successful onside kick and got the ball right back. They drove to the Powell 18, before the Panther defense stiffened and halted the drive.
Taking over at that spot, Abraham ran for 14 yards then 4, before Olsen kept it himself and broke free on a 52-yard run to get it to the Wolverine 15.
Abraham then covered those final 15 yards on two carries, with another Herd extra point pushing the lead back out to 17-6.
A chance to add the lead on a Stutzman 41-yard field goal attempt fell just short, but late in the third the Panthers went on another scoring march.
Olsen hit tight end Carson Heinen for an 8-yard gain, Abraham went for 7- and 8-yard runs to get it to the Riverton 20, and Olsen finished it off with a scoring strike to Zach Easum.
Herd’s extra point was true and the lead now looked comfortable at 23-6 with little more than one quarter left to play.
“Even with that lead, Riverton had the potential to make big plays all game long,” Buck said.
The coach’s words proved prophetic as a Colton Patterson to Isaac Devries pass and catch made it a 23-12 game early in the fourth and later, with just 3:13 left to play, Riverton snared an interception and third-string QB Treyton Paxton hit Jaren Draper on a 35-yard touchdown pass to narrow the lead to 23-18.
But behind three Abraham runs that netted a Powell first down, the Panthers were able to run out the clock and secure the win.
“It was a very physical game that we had to have,” Buck said. “I’m proud of how hard we played and am glad we came out of it healthy.”
Good health will be key in this week’s matchup on the road at Green River.
“They are a very good team with a little more depth than we do and it’s never easy to play down there,” Buck said. “It will come down to the ground games, and it won’t be easy, but if we can take away their running game, it should make for a great game.”