Defense dominates

Posted 9/1/09

The visitors from Miles City were set up on a short field just before halftime after Powell's attempt to convert on fourth-and-2 came up inches short. After the stop, the Cowboys marched 33 yards in seven plays, aided by a pass interference call …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Defense dominates


Powell senior Trent Gillett works and break the grasp of a Custer County defender on Saturday evening as the Panthers and Cowboys hooked up in a zero-week gridiron contest. Custer County emerged from the defensive scrap with a 7-0 victory that will not count against Powell's season record. The Panthers travel to Riverton this Friday for their first official game of the year. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik {gallery}09_01_09/football{/gallery} Defending Montana champs prevail 7-0 over PowellFootball is a game of inches. Anyone still doubting that familiar adage certainly wasn't at Saturday's zero-week contest between the Powell Panthers and the Custer County (Mont.) Cowboys.

The visitors from Miles City were set up on a short field just before halftime after Powell's attempt to convert on fourth-and-2 came up inches short. After the stop, the Cowboys marched 33 yards in seven plays, aided by a pass interference call against the Panthers, to score the only points in Saturday's game and earn a 7-0 win.

“Giving up the short field there may have been dumb on my part,” conceded Powell head coach Jim Stringer after the contest. “But that's part of what zero week is about. That might be a situation we find ourselves in during the season, so why not take the opportunity to practice it in a game that doesn't count in the standings? If we run the pass route about six inches deeper, it's a first down.”

For the most part, however, Saturday's game was dominated by hard-nosed defense. In that regard, Custer County was every bit as good as advertised. The defending Montana Class A champion held Powell to just 132 yards of offense in the contest and marked the 12th time in 14 games the team had held an opponent to 14 points or less on the scoreboard.

Panther fans also found reason for optimism for the campaign ahead. The Panthers closed down Custer County's offense, forcing Miles City to labor for 174 yards on 49 plays.

“I thought our defense played well,” Stringer said after the game. “We just didn't do enough to capitalize on the field position they gave us.”

The Panthers' defensive play shined its brightest in the second half. Powell forced three-and-outs on Custer County's first two possessions following intermission. The Cowboys' offense was held to a negative-one yard for the third quarter.

During that span, the Panthers' offense mounted its two best drives of the evening. Powell took its first possession of the second half and chained together 14 plays in marching from its own 23 to the Cowboys' 11, only to see the drive end short of paydirt as Custer County came up with a quarterback sack and a key fourth-down stop.

The Panthers also strung together a 13-play drive spanning the third and fourth quarters that approached within five yards of the endzone, only to come away empty after four downs.

“Both times, we got into scoring position and we made a couple mistakes with our execution — a bad snap, someone running the wrong way — that prevented us from capitalizing,” said Stringer.

Custer County answered the latter threat by holding on to the football for the final 6:27 of the game to clinch the victory.

“Their size finally wore us down and we weren't able to get them off the field that final drive,” said Stringer. “We were giving up quite a few pounds across the line of scrimmage.”

Senior Auston Carter led Powell's defensive charge throughout the contest. The Panthers' linebacker finished with a team-best 24 defensive points, including 16 tackles. Senior defensive lineman Joe Lujan added a 22-point performance on the strength of nine tackles, two of which were for a loss, and a block of a 31-yard Custer County field goal attempt early in the second quarter.

Carter also served as Powell's leading ball carrier, gaining 30 yards in the contest. As a team, the Panthers struggled throughout the evening against the bigger front of Custer County, averaging fewer than 2.5 yards per carry. Senior Billy Harshman added 20 yards on the ground and was also the Panthers' top receiving threat, pulling in four passes for 40 yards.

Sophomore quarterback Keithen Schwahn finished his first start 7-for-18 through the air for 56 yards. He also carried the ball a dozen times, picking up 17 yards. Schwahn was also responsible for the game's only turnover, a meaningless interception thrown on a Hail Mary on the final play before halftime.

Despite the loss, the Panthers' coaching staff was upbeat after the contest.

“We learned some things tonight,” said Stringer. “I was pleased with our work ethic, for the most part. We just need to improve our consistency. We had a few plays where people weren't at the right place at the right time and our timing was off. Really, there's about a half dozen plays or so where if little things get done right, instead of a 7-0 loss tonight we're talking about a 7-0 or 14-0 victory.”