Panthers hold off Riverton

Posted 9/9/10

“Last week I got burned bad on one pass play and made a bad play on another,” Olson said, referring to the Panthers' abbreviated scrimmage at Miles City, Mont. “Tonight, I just told myself to be more aggressive and go for the pick …

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Panthers hold off Riverton


{gallery}09_09_10/phsfootball{/gallery}Powell junior Olie Olson runs away from a Riverton tackler during a 13-10 non-conference victory over the Wolverines last Friday. Tribune photo by John Wetzel Defense holds up when neededIt may have seemed on Friday night like the visiting Riverton Wolverines had the football the entire second half. They didn't, but folks could hardly be blamed for thinking otherwise. So, too, folks may have thought Panther junior defensive back Olie Olson was everywhere in that second half. He wasn't, but he was at the right place at the right time to pick off a pair of fourth-quarter passes and help fifth-ranked Powell secure a 13-10 victory in its season-opening football game.

“Last week I got burned bad on one pass play and made a bad play on another,” Olson said, referring to the Panthers' abbreviated scrimmage at Miles City, Mont. “Tonight, I just told myself to be more aggressive and go for the pick if I could get it.”

He did. Olson intercepted three Riverton passes on Friday night —all of them inside the Panthers' 30-yard line —to finish as the night's top defender. Olson added four solo and four assisted tackles as part of a 29-point defensive effort.

“He had a rough night last week,” Panther coach Jim Stringer said of Olson. “He was pretty down after the Miles City game, but he studied the film and practiced hard to get ready for this week.”

Olson's efforts, as well as those of the rest of the Panthers' defensive unit, were vital on Friday night. Powell's offense was on the field for just 17 snaps after carrying a 13-7 lead into the halftime locker room.

After intercepting Panther starting quarterback Keithen Schwahn at its own 12, Riverton embarked on a 16-play drive, capped by a 31-yard Jarrett Watson field goal, carving Powell's lead to 13-10. The drive also consumed a large chunk of the third quarter clock.

The Panthers were turned away on downs on their next possession, relinquishing control of the football at the Riverton 34. It took the Wolverines just three plays to march across midfield. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty on third-and-18, Riverton was operating inside the Panthers' 35 a short while later until Olson ended the drive with a pick at the 24.

As big as that play was, the next one may have been even bigger. After forcing the only three-and-out of the ballgame defensively, Riverton began the game's final drive at its own 36.

The Wolverines came up with one key play, converting a fourth-and-6 at midfield. They weren't able to duplicate the feat three plays later as Olson steped in front of a third-and-9 pass to seal the victory for Powell.

“We struggled the entire game to find the right combination of players on the defensive line,” Stringer said, noting the Panthers finished with a defensive unit that featured three freshmen and a senior in his first year of football since the eighth grade. “Luke Cannon stepped up at outside linebacker and really helped to take away some of what they'd had success with to the outside early in the game.”

Early on, it appeared the game might be destined to be a high scoring affair. Riverton took the opening kickoff and marched inside the Panthers' 10-yard line befores stalling out. Powell abruptly took the field for its first offensive possession and worked from its own 6 across midfield. The Panthers were celebrating a completion of more than 20 yards from Schwahn to senior receiver Kyle Sullivan when the ball was stripped during the tackle and recovered by the Wolverines.

One play later, Kole Stewart raced 78 yards for Riverton's only touchdown of the night and a 7-0 Wolverine lead.

Powell didn't trail for long, however. After returning the ensuing kickoff to the 44, Colby Gilmore carried the ball across from six yards out after being set up inside the red zone via a 42-yard run by Olson. Cody Wichman's kick knotted the scoreboard at 7-7.

After watching their next two drives each end via interception inside the Riverton 20, Powell returned to the endzone with 40 seconds remaining in the first half. Sophomore Vince Sleep stepped in front of a Wolverines pass, returning the interception to the Riverton 16. Josh Cragoe took the next handoff down to the one and two plays later bulled across for the score.

Sleep was another active member of the Panthers' defense. In addition to the interception, Sleep finished with five solo and eight assisted tackles, including one for a loss to score a 26-point night defensively. Colt Nix finished with four solo and five assisted tackles, including one for a loss.

On offense, Cragoe carred the football 11 times for 86 yards. Gilmore added 59 yards on seven carries. As a team, Powell averaged nearly eight yards per run after gaining 237 yards on 30 carries.

The Panthers were also 4-for-11 through the air for 63 yards, but also threw three interceptions. Riverton finished with 306 yards of offense on 60 offensive plays. Both teams were guilty of four turnovers.

“That's something we need to work on,” said Stringer. “We cannot keep turning the ball over like that. And, just like last week, we were able to move the ball well, but we had trouble getting into the endzone. We've got to fix that and fix it in a hurry.”

Powell hosts Wheatland this Friday night in a meeting between the No. 5 and No. 6 teams in the latest Wyopreps coaches and media poll.