Homecoming celebration

Posted 10/5/10

It would have been hard for the Panthers to script a better start to the contest. After Tyler England returned the opening kickoff to the Star Valley 21, Powell needed just two plays —a 15-yard pass from quarterback Keithen Schwahn to Josh …

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Homecoming celebration


{gallery}10_05_10/pshfootball{/gallery} Powell's Vince Sleep scoops up the football after Anthony Lujan and an unseen teammate lay the lumber to Star Valley quarterback Logan Abrams during the first half of the Panthers' 24-19 Homecoming victory last Friday. Tribune photo by John WetzelBig first quarter spurs Panthers past BravesThe fourth-ranked Powell Panthers used a trio of first-quarter touchdowns and a solid defensive effort to notch a 24-19 victory over Star Valley on Friday night. In the process, nine years of frustration against the Braves melted away. “It's been a long time, I think, since we beat them,” said a happy Powell head coach Jim Stringer after the contest. “It's nice for the kids to get a win like this. It's a big win, not only because it's Homecoming, but it gets us to 2-0 in conference play as well.”

It would have been hard for the Panthers to script a better start to the contest. After Tyler England returned the opening kickoff to the Star Valley 21, Powell needed just two plays —a 15-yard pass from quarterback Keithen Schwahn to Josh Cragoe and a six-yard Cooper Wise run —to find the end zone.

Star Valley answered with a 13-play, 74-yard drive to momentarily go on top 7-6 following the extra point, but that lead barely lasted for barely three minutes. Powell came back to take the lead on a four-yard touchdown run by Schwahn. The score was set up moments earlier thanks to a 42-yard pass from Schwahn to senior receiver Billy Cummings.

Schwahn turned in another big pass play on the Panthers' next possession, hooking up with Cragoe for a 33-yard completion to again move the ball inside the Star Valley red zone. Two plays later, Schwahn found England rolled out to his left, avoided the rush long enough and found Tyler England streaking across the back of the end zone for the Panthers' third touchdown of the opening quarter and a 21-7 lead.

“That start was extremely huge,” said Stringer. “That put them behind the eight-ball a little bit and they had to go for bigger plays sooner than I'm sure they wanted to. Their screen package is pretty unbelievable, so to get them in a position where they kind of got away from that was huge.”

The Panthers narrowly missed a chance to add to their lead, getting stripped of the football inside the Star Valley 10 on a play where it appeared the Powell would almost be able to walk into the end zone had they been able to make the defender miss. The Braves executed a two-minute drill to perfection, moving 85 yards on 12 plays and beating the halftime clock by 43 seconds to trail 21-13 at halftime.

“That's really one of the only bad plays we made,” Stringer said of the red zone fumble.

In the second half, Powell simply made play after play when called upon. The Panthers stopped Star Valley's initial possession by forcing incompletions on two successive attempts to gain six yards. Powell then burned most of the third quarter clock driving back into the Braves' red zone before coming away empty after attempting to convert on their own fourth-and-6 situation.

The Panthers got their next scoring chance early in the fourth quarter as the Braves muffed a punt. Powell's coverage unit was on the spot to pounce on the chance and handed the football over to the Panther offense at the Star Valley 26.

The Panthers' drive would eventually stall four yards shy of the end zone. Sophomore Dewey Schwahn trotted out for a 22-yard field goal though to send Powell up 24-13 with just over seven minutes to play.

Star Valley countered with a touchdown after a 14-play drive that found the end zone only after the Braves converted on a fourth-and-19 situation. Powell held tough to deny the two-point conversion and leave the Braves trailing by five with 4:20 remaining.

From there, the Panther offense took over to seal the win. The Panthers converted a pair of key third down plays — one covering six yards and the other encompassing eight yards —to keep the Braves' offense watching helplessly from the sidelines as Powell ran out the clock to secure their first win in nine seasons over Star Valley.

For the night, Keithen Schwahn was 10-for-12 through the air for 176 yards. Cragoe added 111 yards of offense, leading Powell with 29 yards along the ground and also pulling in five passes for 82 yards in receptions. Cummings added 61 yards worth of receptions as Powell netted 260 yards of offense on 51 plays.

“Keithen put the ball where he had to time and again tonight and our receivers were really aggressive about going up and fighting for the ball,” Stringer said. “Give our offensive line credit, too, because they gave him the time to throw and created a nice set of pocket lanes for him to step up into and deliver the football.”

Defensively, Powell surrendered 252 yards through the air, but held the Braves to just 38 rushing yards on 33 attempts. Powell's defense came up with four sacks in the contest.

Vince Sleep continued his solid sophomore season, leading the Panthers with five solo and five assisted tackles, including one for loss as he amassed 20 defensive points. Colt Nix registered three of his four tackles in the game behind the line of scrimmage for a 17-point night. Zach Thiel, Anthony Lujan and Cragoe each finished with 13 defensive points.