Abraham’s 3 TDs lead Panthers to second straight win
As they try to prove themselves among the Class 3A’s Western Conference, the Panthers took down another Eastern Conference opponent on Friday night.
Junior T.J. Abraham scored all three of Powell’s touchdowns — in three different ways — as the No. 5 Panthers (2-0) posted their second straight double-digit home win over an Eastern Conference opponent.
Powell’s 24-14 win against the visiting Buffalo Bison (0-2) was again a product of an efficient — and sometimes explosive — ground game, coupled with rugged defense. The grit-and-grind combination is the first phase of what head coach Chanler Buck envisions for his PHS program.
“I think the longterm goal in things is to be versatile in both (the run and pass),” Buck said.
But in the season’s early going, the Panthers are dictating games on the ground.
“You’ve got to establish the running game,” Buck said. “You’re going to be able to run the ball well and be in control of the game.”
The Panthers were in control almost throughout the contest, which they never trailed.
Abraham followed his 33-carry, 210-yard performance in last week’s 25-2 win against Douglas with 101 yards on 18 carries Friday night.
The Bison ran for 100 yards — 101 yards more than Douglas managed last week — but at just 2.7 yards per carry.
The Panthers allowed just seven rushes of 5 or more yards, and just one for more than 8 — a 12-yard run by Phillip Renkert in the second quarter.
Buffalo sophomore quarterback Christian Schultze threw for 132 yards on 9-for-19 passing, plus an interception to Powell senior Kaden Moore.
It was the second straight week in which Powell’s defense forced the only turnover of the contest.
Both of Buffalo’s scores came on 1-yard runs from Schultze, but it was Tommy Fieldgrove who was Buffalo’s biggest threat. The senior wide receiver finished with seven receptions for 115 yards.
“He’s their primary guy — tough kid, big kid,” Buck said of Fieldgrove, who is listed at 6-foot-2. “He was able to create some mismatches and he caught the ball when he needed to.
“Buffalo had some good kids. He was one of the issues we had to adjust to.”
The Panthers were unable to bring down Schultze after their six-sack performance against the Bearcats, but generated enough pressure, at times, to force errant passes, one of which landed in the hands of Moore.
“They don’t sit back in the pocket as much as Douglas,” Buck said of the Bison passing attack. “Their offensive line did a lot better job than what we saw the week before.”
Unable to reach Schultze with a four-man rush, the Panthers tried some linebacker blitzes.
“They (the Bison) picked up the middle stunts really well, (but) we had some good speed off the edges at times that created some forced throws, and one of them ended up in an interception,” Buck said.
Only one of Abraham’s touchdowns came on a handoff, a 1-yard run in the second quarter to put the Panthers up 10-0.
Abraham didn’t need his number called to score his second touchdown of the game.
Following a 1-yard touchdown run by Schultze that brought Buffalo within three points in the second quarter, Abraham took the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to the end zone to extend Powell’s lead back to 10.
Powell’s third score came on Abraham’s 47-yard scamper out of a punt formation that took the Bison by surprise on fourth-and-four and extended Powell’s halftime lead to 24-7.
“We went into punt, where he had the option to rugby kick it or he had the option (to run),” Buck said.
Abraham made his read, took off and picked up the first down before making multiple Buffalo defenders miss on his way to the end zone.
Abraham’s 18 carries were 15 less than in week 1, and one less in week zero’s preseason game against Custer County (Miles City, Montana).
Buck said he wanted to give the Panthers’ primary weapon a lighter workload.
“We try to give him a little time off,” Buck said. “He decided to make up for that with special teams — he wore himself out.”
Five other Panthers — junior quarterback Mason Olsen, senior Zach Schuler, junior Zach Easum and sophomores Josh Wolfe and A.J. Lewis — split 15 carries for 40 yards.
Olsen completed just five passes — to five Panther receivers — in another conservative effort. Olsen was 5-for-15 for 50 yards, and added 27 yards on five carries.
Buck said he is satisfied with Olsen’s progression and will continue to ask more of the junior signal caller each week. The Panther coaches have been “keeping it simple for him” in terms of gameplan so far in his first season as a starter.
“He’s doing a great job,” Buck said. “But week by week there’s going to be another task, there will be another read. Your offensive and defensive arsenal are going to continue to expand.”
Juniors Paige Gann (16 yards), Zach Easum (2), Brekyn Herd (2) and seniors Carson Asher (24) and Abraham (6) each had a reception in the win.
Jeron Smith opened the scoring with a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter, atoning for his 28-yard miss earlier. The senior was 3-for-3 on PATs.
On defense, Smith tallied seven tackles and broke up a pass.
Max Gallager added 7.5 tackles, including a team-high four solo tackles.
Abraham also had 7.5 tackles, including two for a loss. Seniors Jake Gallagher and Jackson Griffin and Schuler each had one tackle for a loss.
Panthers leave the comfort of home
For the first time this season, Powell will play outside the confines of Panther Stadium.
The Panthers will head to Riverton in week three for what their coach predicts will be their toughest test of the young season.
“Riverton’s a great team,” Buck said. “Coach (Patrick) Patterson turned that program around.
“That’s going to be our biggest challenge, going down to Riverton and taking the next step.”
The Wolverines (1-1) eliminated Powell from the 2014 playoffs with a 42-26 win.
“They’ve got a little taste in their mouth,” Buck said of his players.
Riverton is the third straight Class 3A East team on Powell’s schedule, and the Panthers’ final opponent before conference play begins.
Riverton shut out Green River 21-0 in week one and lost to Star Valley 42-28 on Friday.
The Panthers return to Powell on Sept. 25, to host the West’s Green River. Powell will have just one home game over the final four games of the season.