Coming down to the wire

Panthers’ playoff hopes on the line against Green River

Posted 10/17/19

Coming off back-to-back conference losses with just two games remaining in the regular season, the Powell High School football team’s hopes for a playoff berth come down to Friday.

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Coming down to the wire

Panthers’ playoff hopes on the line against Green River

Posted

Coming off back-to-back conference losses with just two games remaining in the regular season, the Powell High School football team’s hopes for a playoff berth come down to Friday.

After a promising 3-1 start to the season, the Panthers have dropped two straight conference games to Star Valley and Cody — the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in 3A, respectively. Friday night’s home finale against Green River (2-4, 1-2 in 3A West) is rife with playoff implications, as both teams will battle for Class 3A West’s final playoff spot; winless Evanston has been mathematically eliminated from postseason consideration.

“I can expect Green River to be ready to play. We have to be able to do the same,” said PHS head coach Aaron Papich. “For both of us, it’s for the playoffs. We know it’s going to be a really competitive game, and we’re excited for the opportunity to play on Friday.”

The Panthers are coming off a 38-14 loss to cross-county rival Cody, while Green River broke a two-game losing skid to Jackson and Star Valley with a 14-7 win over Evanston last week. Both teams have struggled offensively of late (through five games, Powell is ranked eighth in team offense and Green River 11th), though Papich said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen from his team in practice this week.

“We want the guys focused on playing against a really good player every single play and doing their job every single play,” he said. “We don’t want them too concerned or too stressed out by the implications of this game, but at the same time we realize it’s in the back of their minds.  We just want them to focus on playing hard every single play.”

Junior running back Gabe Burdette is the workhouse on the ground for the Wolves, with 285 yards rushing through five games, a 57 yards-per-game average. Jachob Fuss and Davis Wrage have both seen time under center for Green River, with tight end Kolby Ivie as their favorite target. Ivie led the team through five games with eight catches for 155 yards and a touchdown, averaging 31 receiving yards per game.

The Panthers hope to counter on the ground with Kadden Abraham, Brody Karhu and Toran Graham. Abraham leads the team with 338 yards rushing through five games; his three touchdowns and 67 yards-per-game average also lead the team. Karhu and Graham have 141 and 136 yards on the ground, respectively; Karhu has two touchdowns, including a 72-yard scamper for a score against Evanston.

Under center, Panther junior Landon Lengfelder has thrown for 388 yards on the season, with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. Jesse Trotter leads the team in receiving with 172 yards and a touchdown; fellow deep threat Brailey Gann has 52 yards on the season with two touchdowns. Adrian Gellar, Carson Olsen and Garrett Stutzman are also a threat to come up with a big catch when needed.

The Wolves were ranked fourth in team defense through five games, led by linebacker Payton Tucker with 72 total tackles and 113 defensive points. The team has five takeaways on the season, with linebacker Riese Allison credited with an interception and a fumble recovery.

Panther linebacker Olsen leads the team with 112 defensive points. Powell’s defensive unit has proven to be an opportunistic one, with 14 takeaways on the season; Stutzman and Geller have three picks each, while safety Reed Smith has a pick and a fumble recovery.

“We need big games Friday out of Carson Olsen, Brody Karhu and Kadden Abraham. Those guys are key contributors on both sides of the ball,” Papich said. “We’re dealing with a few injuries, so it’s a next-man-up situation for a lot of these guys. To have them all playing hard will be great for our team.”

Friday’s final home game will have a special significance, as the Panthers will honor their 11 seniors before kickoff. Stutzman, Karhu, Olsen, Ryan Good, Matthew Seckman, Justin Johnston, Dallas Oliver, Macen Thomas, Bryce Johnson and Chase Gonzales will all suit up for the final time at Panther Stadium. They’ll also be playing for the one senior who won’t be there: Team captain Ethan Asher, who was injured in an automobile accident prior to the start of the season and currently recovering in a Denver hospital. The Panthers have dedicated this season to him.

“These guys have been together for a long time, and I know they have had a lot of good experiences together — a lot of great memories,” Papich said. “Certainly Friday will be a great way for them to finish out their careers here at home as Panthers. I can expect them to play hard and have a good night.”

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