Panthers 2-0 after win at Lander

Beat tigerS 17-7 on Friday

Posted 9/17/19

After an emotional 24-7 win over Worland to start the 2019 season, the Powell High School football team hoped to carry that momentum on the road at Lander Friday.

The Panthers did just that, …

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Panthers 2-0 after win at Lander

Beat tigerS 17-7 on Friday

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After an emotional 24-7 win over Worland to start the 2019 season, the Powell High School football team hoped to carry that momentum on the road at Lander Friday.

The Panthers did just that, overcoming an early scare by the Tigers to rattle off 17 unanswered points in a 17-7 win. Powell is now 2-0 on the young season — the team’s best start since 2015.

“It was a good win for us. We made good adjustments in the second half,” said PHS head coach Aaron Papich. “Our players I think responded well to a slow start. We knew through the course of the game that if we stuck to our game plan and made the little adjustments where needed, we’d have a good chance.”

Lander looked dialed in to start the contest, forcing a three-and-out on the Panthers’ opening possession. Tigers quarterback Tyler Massey then took over, completing 3-of-3 passes for 49 yards in Lander’s opening drive, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to John Fawson. The score gave the home team a 7-0 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter.

“We told the defense that we know they [Lander] are going to get big plays here and there — but we are too,” Papich said. “But we know over the course of 150 plays that we have the advantage. We knew if we could respond and stay in the fight, the scale’s going to tip in our favor.”

The Panthers used their next few drives to establish the run game, with last week’s workhorse Kadden Abraham and teammate Toran Graham splitting
carries. Late in the second quarter, Graham peeled off a 17-yard run to get Powell down into the red zone, then had an 8-yard run after that.

After burning their last time out with 20 seconds remaining in the half, Panther quarterback Landon Lengfelder faked a handoff to both Abraham and Graham and scampered into the end zone untouched from 4 yards out. Hawkin Sweeney’s PAT tied the game at 7 heading into halftime. Powell had 86 yards rushing in the first half, led by Abraham with 41 yards and Graham with 31 yards. Lengfelder was 4-for-6 passing for 30 yards, including a pair to Garrett Stutzman for 17 total yards.

“Lander’s passing game was working real well that first half, they were finding openings on the field,” Papich said. “But our guys rallied real well and trusted their keys. We really tightened it up in the second quarter.”

The two teams traded punts to start the second half, with the Panthers’ defense continuing to shut down the Lander ground attack.

“We watched a lot of film on Lander, made sure we knew what they were running when they were running it,” said lineman and team captain Ryan Good. “We were pretty well-prepared for them.”

Facing a third-and-long midway through the third quarter, Lengfelder hit Jesse Trotter on a 51-yard strike, taking the Panthers down to the Lander 10-yard-line.

“Our timing between Lengfelder and Trotter was great on that play. That was really sweet,” Papich said. “We kind of blew the top off with that one and made Lander respect our passing game a little bit. It really complemented everything we were doing on offense.”

Abraham scored on a 10-yard run the very next play, giving Powell its first lead of the game, 14-7 after Sweeney’s PAT.

Powell added to its lead with just seconds remaining in the third, as Sweeney converted on a 44-yard attempt to push the lead to 17-7. Neither team scored in the game’s final frame, and the Panthers took the 17-7 win.

“That’s really all we want is to be in a good spot when the fourth quarter rolls around, because we feel like we have a big advantage,” Papich said. “We trust in the players that we have out there, and that extends past our starters — we’re getting a lot of guys rotating in, and we put our trust in them when they’re out there. They’ve been doing a really good job, across the board.”

Abraham once again led the charge for the Panthers offensively, rushing for 97 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. Graham added 46 yards on nine carries, a 5-yard per carry average. Powell finished with 195 yards on the ground.

“Our power game was really working for us,” Papich said. “Abraham and Graham were just awesome in the backfield, and hats off to our whole offensive line. Those guys really dominated the line of scrimmage, and you could really see that in the second half as we just kept pounding the defense and wearing them down.”

Papich also praised the hard-nose running of Graham, who gave Lander’s defensive line fits the whole game.

“Toran’s a big fella, he’s kind of a man out there running the ball,” Papich said. “We would just run dive to him right through the A gap, and our line would do a great job blocking. He’d get 5 yards, then there’s a guy on him, then another, and another. It usually takes more than one guy to take him down. I was really happy with his effort.”

Lengfelder completed five of 12 passes for 84 yards and no picks, including the 51-yard strike to Trotter. The junior also scored on a 4-yard run.

While the Panthers weren’t the ball hawks they were last week against Worland with five turnovers, the defense still had an outstanding game, holding the Tigers to just 37 yards on the ground. Linebacker Carson Olsen led the team with 21.5 defensive points, finishing with 11 tackles, 2.5 for a loss. Abraham and Riley Bennett tied for second with 9.5 points apiece; Adrian Gellar finished with seven, while Good and Kobe Ostermiller tallied five apiece.

Papich saved the most credit for the offensive and defensive lines, as well as his coaching staff. The coaches this season are offensive coordinator Chase Kistler, defensive coordinator Mike Heny, special teams coach Waleryan Wisniewski, offensive line coach Zach Coombs and Joel Hayano.

“They [the line] did a really good job just playing physical football,” Papich said. “They really wore down those guys throughout the game.”

The Panthers are back home Friday against Douglas (1-1), for what Papich expects to be a hard-fought contest.

“They’re a big-time power team on offense, so they’re always going to be pulling somebody, working cross-blocks, that kind of thing,” he said. “There’s always a lot of things going on with their line.We’ll have to be on our toes and ready to play, they’re a well-coached team. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.”

And with No. 3 still in a hospital in Billings, the Panthers will continue to play in his honor.

“One of our big motivators is Ethan [Asher], he was always the one to get us going,” Good said. “We’re using that to our advantage, especially when things aren’t going how we’d like. This win was fun to be a part of.”

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