Panthers’ road woes continue at Cody

Broncs earn Big Horn Brawl bragging rights in 38-14 win

Posted 10/15/19

For the Powell High School football team, it was deja vu all over again.

Against No. 1 Star Valley two weeks ago, the Panthers (4-3, 1-2 in 3A West) struggled to overcome a fast start by the …

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Panthers’ road woes continue at Cody

Broncs earn Big Horn Brawl bragging rights in 38-14 win

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For the Powell High School football team, it was deja vu all over again.

Against No. 1 Star Valley two weeks ago, the Panthers (4-3, 1-2 in 3A West) struggled to overcome a fast start by the Braves, who never took their foot off the gas. Friday against No. 2-ranked Cody (6-0, 3-0 in 3A West), it was much of the same, as the Broncs scored on their first three drives en route to a 38-14 win.

It was Powell’s third straight loss to Cody in the battle for Big Horn Basin supremacy, and its second straight road loss to one of the top teams in the 3A West.

“Cody had momentum early, and they just rode that through the game,” said PHS head coach Aaron Papich. “We weren’t able to respond the way I know we’re capable of, but I’m looking forward to Green River this Friday.”

Powell’s struggles on special teams was evident early, as Cody seemed to be working from a short field for much of the first half. A nice return on the opening kickoff by Cody’s Nathan Wilson had the Broncs setting up shop in Panther territory; four plays later, and with just under two minutes gone in the game, Cody took a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard touchdown run by Chaz Cowie.

Papich said special teams will be addressed by the Panthers in practice this week.

“Obviously, special teams is a third of the game, and they played better than we did,” he said. “But we’re confident in our guys, and we’re going to just continue to stick to the basics at practice. We’ll do much better this week.”

Cody scored a field goal and a touchdown on its next two possessions to take a 17-0 lead, while its defense continued to give the Panthers’ offensive units fits. Powell’s defense finally found its groove in the second quarter, swinging momentum to their favor after holding Cody to a three-and-out. Defensive end Carson Olsen beat a pair of blockers to block the ensuing punt, giving the Panthers the ball on the 2 yard line. Quarterback Landon Lengfelder scored on a keeper, and with Hawkin Sweeney’s extra point, Powell cut the lead to 17-7 with eight minutes left in the half.

“Carson showed a lot of effort on that play, and I think that was a big momentum boost for us in that moment,” Papich said of Olsen’s turnover. “It’s always good to see a blocked punt — it shows you’re not giving up on the play and doing all you can to try and make a play.”

The momentum was short-lived, however, as the Broncs marched down the field on their next possession to make the score 24-7. A turnover by the Panthers on their next possession gave Cody the ball deep in Powell territory. Quarterback Hunter Hays scored on a keeper, and the Broncs went into the half leading 31-7.

The second half was a bit more subdued, as the two teams traded punts in the third quarter. Lengfelder was picked by Cody’s Devon Brown midway through the third; Powell’s Adrian Gellar stepped in front of a Hays pass on the very next play to give the Panthers the ball back, though they were unable to capitalize.

Both teams scored once more in the final frame, with Cody’s Cowie punching it in from the 2-yard line with nine minutes left to play. The Panthers saved a measure of pride as the game wound down: A nice run by fullback Toran Graham was followed by a 35-yard touchdown strike from Lengfelder to Brailey Gann. Sweeney’s PAT was good, and the game ended with a 38-14 score.

“I think our kids kept fighting, and I’m always proud of that,” Papich said. “Sometimes the game doesn’t go the way you want it to, but one thing you can control is how you respond. That’s what we’re teaching our guys. You have to step up, respond and do the best you can.”

Cody finished the game with 209 total yards of offense, 153 rushing and 56 yards through the air. The Panthers were held to just 39 yards on the ground, led by 15 yards apiece from Lengfelder and Reed Smith.

Lengfelder completed seven of 16 passes for 116 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

The Panthers are at home Friday against Green River (2-4, 1-2 in 3A West), in a game with serious postseason implications. It’s the final game at Panther Stadium this season, as well as senior night, and the team hopes to honor its graduating class with a win against the Wolves.

“I expect Green River to come out and play hard,” Papich said. “We’re going to have to play really fundamentally sound to beat them. It’s a must-win for both teams, almost a play-in game for the playoffs. They want it as bad as we do, and with it being senior night, emotions will be running high.”

Papich said he’s proud of how the Panthers continue to fight against adversity this season, on and off the field.

“The easiest thing that you can do when things aren’t going your way is give up,” he said. “That’s not our guys. Our guys kept fighting, and that’s what I’m proud of. Obviously you want to win, but it wasn’t in the cards against Cody. But I’m happy our guys stayed positive through the game.”

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