Panthers edged by No. 1 Jackson

Late touchdown lifts Broncs to win

Posted 10/20/20

Facing the top team in Class 3A on Friday night, the Panthers played Jackson’s football squad “exactly how we needed to play them,” said head coach Chase Kistler.

However, …

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Panthers edged by No. 1 Jackson

Late touchdown lifts Broncs to win


Facing the top team in Class 3A on Friday night, the Panthers played Jackson’s football squad “exactly how we needed to play them,” said head coach Chase Kistler.

However, “I don’t think that we executed the big plays in the big moments when we needed it,” Kistler said.

The Powell High School team fell 21-14 at Panther Stadium, edged by a late Jackson touchdown and hurt by a pair of costly turnovers.

Powell (5-2 overall, 2-2 in Class 3A West) literally ran out to a great start in the conference matchup: Senior Kadden Abraham ripped off 43 yards on the Panthers’ first rushing play of the game. That drive didn’t yield any points, but later in the first quarter, senior QB Landon Lengfelder found paydirt with an 8-yard touchdown run. Hawkin Sweeney added the PAT for a 7-0 Powell advantage.

Meanwhile, the Panther defense shut down the Broncs’ offense, limiting Jackson to just 81 yards in the first half. When the Broncs drove deep into Panther territory late in the second quarter, PHS senior Riley Bennett ended the threat by picking off a pass in the end zone.

But Jackson returned the favor, forcing a fumble from Lengfelder on the Panthers’ ensuing drive and getting prime field position. On a tricky flea flicker-like play, Sadler Smith found Sam Lopeman for a 16-yard touchdown strike with 12 seconds to go. The teams entered halftime in a 7-7 deadlock.

PHS nearly regained the advantage in the third quarter, but a potential touchdown pass went through the receiver’s hands for an interception in the Jackson end zone.

Turnovers are “drive killers for one, but also, it changes the momentum a little bit,” Kistler said, “because we go from the excitement of almost having a catch for a touchdown to, ‘Oh, we’re back on defense.’”

Jackson again capitalized. The squad marched 80 yards for the go-ahead score, capped by a 2-yard keeper from QB Smith. That made it 14-7, Broncs.

The Panthers’ next drive ended with another fumble, and Jackson threatened again. However, the PHS defense stood strong, stopping the Broncs on a fourth down attempt at the Panthers’ 20-yard line.

“As a whole, the defense did their part and played a very sound game, I thought,” Kistler said. The Broncs picked up 263 yards in the contest — only about half their season average of 500 yards per game.

After stuffing Jackson, the Panthers proceeded to run down the field. Reed Smith broke loose for a 33-yard gain and piled up 55 yards on the possession.

PHS’ drive threatened to stall out 4 yards shy of the end zone, but Lengfelder used a quarterback sneak to pick up a critical fourth and inches. Toran Graham then ran it in from 2 yards out. Sweeney hit the point after touchdown and the Panthers had drawn even at 14 with just under eight minutes left in the game. It was an 80-yard drive, with every yard coming on the ground.

“We set in on the run game and momentum was kind of shifting back in our favor there,” Kistler said.

Jackson, however, would respond. The Broncs put together their own scoring drive, converting a critical fourth and 1 — and finding the end zone when Lopeman hauled in a 23-yard lob from Sadler Smith. Worse, Jackson had milked seven minutes off the clock, leaving the Panthers with little time to attempt a comeback.

“... it was a jump ball that we could have put on the turf and the score would have remained tied,” Kistler said of what proved to be the winning touchdown pass, “But, you know, those are just some things that one or two plays that made a big difference.”

Sadler Smith finished 12 of 21 for 118 yards with the two touchdowns and one interception. Jackson RB Brody Hasenack picked up 115 yards on the ground, but it took him 38 carries — and it was well below the 257 yards per game he’d been averaging on the season.

“Our run defense against Jackson was spot on,” Kistler said.

Wracking up 32 defensive points for the Panthers, Graham made seven unassisted tackles, assisted on 10 more (with two for losses) and broke up a pass. Bennett had six unassisted tackles, assisted on three others, broke up two passes and snatched the interception. Meanwhile, Adrian Geller made or was involved in 16 tackles, with 13 for Abraham, 10 for Reed Smith and eight for Zach Ratcliff.

Meanwhile, the Panthers found some rushing success of their own. Abraham had 75 yards on 15 carries, Smith had 55 yards on five touches and Lengfelder rushed 11 times for 42 yards and a touchdown. Graham had 15 yards on four carries — including a touchdown — plus a 12-yard reception, while Jesse Trotter had one catch for 13 yards.

Lengfelder completed two passes out of 13 attempts, both on the Panthers’ final drive, for 25 yards and one interception.

“Our run game, I thought, looked very strong against them [Jackson],” Kistler said. “If we could just keep the turnovers down and we could keep the ball in our possession, I think we could just keep running the ball against them and not be forced to pass.”

The Panthers — ranked No. 2 in Class 3A in last week’s Coaches and Media Poll — could theoretically get a chance for revenge in the playoffs, if both Jackson and Powell advance.

“We know that we can play with that team, ... speed wise, size wise, physicality wise, we match up well with them,” Kistler said. “Those are all things that we can build on if we meet up again.”

First, however, the Panthers are now sitting in third place in Class 3A West and need a win to lock down that seed in the playoffs. In its regular season finale, the Powell squad will head to Evanston on Friday for a 6 p.m. matchup with the Red Devils.