PHS defense blankets Wheatland for win

Posted 9/14/10

“Last year, we had some young guys back there in the secondary, and they took their lumps at times,” said Panther coach Jim Stringer. “Those four guys are back though. They're all athletic. They know their jobs better now and …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

PHS defense blankets Wheatland for win


{gallery}09_14_10/phsfootball{/gallery}Powell's Josh Cragoe picks the ball out of the air to record one of his two interceptions and one of the Panthers' six INT's in a 23-16 victory over Wheatland on Friday night. Tribune photo by Ben Wetzel With apologies to NFL coaching legend Vince Lombardi, perhaps the best offense is a good defense. The fifth-ranked Powell Panthers intercepted Wheatland six times on Friday night, including a pair of rally-killing fourth-quarter interceptions, to hold off the Wheatland Bulldogs, 23-16. The Panthers, who now have amassed 10 interceptions in just two games this season, improved to 2-0 with the victory.

“Last year, we had some young guys back there in the secondary, and they took their lumps at times,” said Panther coach Jim Stringer. “Those four guys are back though. They're all athletic. They know their jobs better now and they're capable of going out and getting a lot of picks if folks throw at them.”

That unit had plenty of opportunities to rise to the challenge last Friday. Josh Cragoe set the tone for the night by intercepting Wheatland on the third play from scrimmage. The interception set up an eventual 41-yard field goal attempt by placekicker Cody Wichman. The junior's leg showed more than enough distance, but the try slid just right of the uprights.

Wheatland followed with a 16-play drive that moved the ball to the Panthers' 3 before Powell's secondary struck again. Junior defensive back Cooper Wise broke off his coverage in the endzone to step in front of a pass at the goal line and race 100 yards the opposite direction for a Panther touchdown.

Powell's defense came up big a couple other times in the opening half. The Panthers forced a fumble just shy of the goal line early in the second quarter, then recorded a tackle for a four-yard loss on a third-and-inches play at the 8 yard-line before also holding Wheatland on the ensuing fourth-and-four play.

The Bulldogs caught their own defensive break moments later. A shotgun snap sailed well over the head of Panther quarterback Keithen Schwahn and bounded into the end zone. The junior signal caller won the footrace to the football, but was unable to get back out of the endzone, resulting in a safety.

Following the ensuing free kick, junior Olie Olson recorded his fourth interception of the year, snaring the ball inside the Panther 20. One play later, Schwahn took a quarterback draw through the middle of Wheatland's defense and raced 84 yards for a touchdown, giving the Panthers a 14-2 halftime lead.

Powell added to its lead on the first possession of the second half. Wise took Powell's first snap nearly 40 yards to inside the Bulldogs' 20. The Panthers eventually reached the Wheatland 5, but three cracks at the endzone could only produce a 21-yard field goal off Wichman's toe for a 17-2 edge.

The Bulldogs responed with a pair of touchdown drives. The first, an 11-play, 69-yard drive was capped by a two-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-inches. The second, a seven-play, 66-yard drive, culminated with a 10-yard touchdown toss to pull Wheatland within 17-16 with 11:47 remaining in the contest. The Bulldogs' attempt for a go-ahead two-point conversion failed as Powell got good pressure on Wheatland senior quarterback Ward Anderson.

Powell wasted little time in answering. Just two minutes later, Schwahn hooked up with Cragoe on about a 12-yard pass that the junior running back turned into a 45-yard touchdown play. The extra point attempt failed, however, keeping the game margin at seven points.

“I was just trying for the first down,” Cragoe said of the play. “Keithen made a good read and I was able to run after I caught it.”

The Panthers' secondary made sure that was enough. Senior Tyler England secured his first interception of the year on Wheatland's next possession. After the Bulldogs intercepted Powell just three plays later, Olson notched his fifth pick of the year on a deep ball inside the Panthers' 20.

From there, Powell's offense burned all but the final few seconds from the clock to wrap up the win.

“We knew Wheatland was a good team and that they could pass the ball well,” said Cragoe, who finished as both the Panthers' top defender with two interceptions and a fumble recovery, and the team's top rusher, carrying the ball 10 times for 65 yards. “We knew we had to play solid with our cover-2, and our defense did that tonight.”

Both teams finished with identical totals of 299 yards of offense. Powell's came primarily on the ground as the team gained 227 yards on 36 carries. The Panthers were 4-for-11 through the air for 72 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Wheatland finished with 134 yards on 35 carries. The Bulldogs were 14-for-31 throwing for 165 yards.

In addition to Cragoe, junior Randy Andrews had a big night on defense. Andrews finished with six solo and six assisted tackles, including two for losses. Wise finished with 17 defensive points on four solo and four assisted tackles plus early pick-six interception.

Five other Panther defenders also finished in double figures on the team's defensive points chart.

“I'm fairly pleased with our offensive execution. Every time we ran our spin sweep well, it was able to chew up the yards,” Stringer said of his team's offense. “We just weren't able to run it between the tackles well except for Keithen's touchdown run. We also need to figure out what's going on with our passing game, because 4-for-11 isn't good enough.”