A valiant comeback by the Powell Panther football team came up just short in a battle of top three teams in Afton on Friday, as the No. 2-ranked Star Valley Braves walked away with a 24-21 victory …
A valiant comeback by the Powell Panther football team came up just short in a battle of top three teams in Afton on Friday, as the No. 2-ranked Star Valley Braves walked away with a 24-21 victory after a last second field goal from 40 yards ended the No. 3-ranked Panthers’ undefeated season.
STAR VALLEY 24, POWELL 21
A difficult first half kicked off for the Panthers (5-1 overall, 1-1 3A West) on defense, as the Braves (5-1 overall, 2-0 3A West) put together a strong opening drive.
That drive took five minutes off the clock, finished off by a short touchdown run to give the hosts a 7-0 lead.
The Powell offense was unable to get anything going throughout the first half, but continued to find themselves in the contest thanks to key plays.
“Offensively we were playing very timid,” coach Chase Kistler said. “We weren’t running hard and we weren’t getting our double teams.”
Jhett Schwahn forced a fumble near midfield that led to a Trey Stenerson recovery just before the end of the first quarter, allowing Powell to stop a Star Valley drive in its tracks.
Unfortunately for Powell, the offense stalled and a pooch punt from Schwahn tried to pin Star Valley deep.
The back and forth play continued, with neither team gaining momentum.
With three minutes left in the half, Powell went for it on fourth and inches inside its own 25 — the Panthers converted it on a quarterback sneak but were ultimately forced to punt.
A strong drive just before the half gave Star Valley the momentum going into the break, scoring on a 19-yard pass after a big play to give the Braves a 14-0 lead at halftime.
“Fourteen points for us this year is not that big of a hole,” Kistler said. “I didn’t really think it was too big of a hole for us to get out of. I knew we just had to play to our potential or it was going to be an even bigger hole.”
Needing a spark coming out of the break, Caden Nelson’s strong kickoff return placed Powell near midfield.
On the second play from scrimmage, Cody Seifert busted through the line and raced up the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown to get Powell back in the contest early in the half.
Unfortunately for Powell, Star Valley had an immediate answer.
A huge play on a quarterback keeper put the Braves inside the 5, and a 3-yard touchdown run followed to reestablish the 14 point lead for the hosts.
“We just weren’t disciplined on our assignments defensively,” Kistler said. “They have big boys up front but once our guys realized that size isn’t everything, once we started playing with low pads and were disciplined, the defense settled in.”
Stopping that momentum in its tracks, the Panthers put together their best drive of the day on the next possession.
A seven minute drive was finished on a quarterback keeper by Schwahn to cut the lead back down to 21-14.
Powell got the ball back when Star Valley was stopped on a fourth down play, but the Panthers again had to punt on a short fourth down to give Star Valley the ball back.
Star Valley’s next drive was stopped after a forced fumble on a hit to the quarterback by Doug Bettger forced the Braves to punt and give Powell the ball back with seven minutes left.
Powell took its time moving down the field, but found itself facing a fourth and 6 with 1:29 remaining.
A false start moved the ball back, before Schwahn placed a ball in the back right corner of the end zone and Alex Jordan made an acrobatic catch over two defenders. A Schwahn PAT tied the game at 21 with 1:22 left on the clock.
“After we scored I gave a little bit of thought about going for two, but the way we were pushing them around up front the thought was to get to overtime and just keep trucking,” Kistler said.
The game appeared to be heading to Powell getting one more opportunity or overtime, as the Panthers called a timeout with 36 seconds left and Star Valley facing a third and five.
A scramble by the quarterback got the first down and the Braves called a timeout of their own.
Out of the timeout, another quarterback scramble led to a 37-yard gain and set up the Braves for a game winning field goal from 45 yards.
An offside by the Panthers on the next play moved the ball 5 yards closer and gave Star Valley a slightly easier attempt.
The kick made it through the uprights, and gave Star Valley the lead with under a second remaining.
An excessive celebration penalty was enforced on the kickoff, but Powell was unable to gather the kickoff before being downed and Star Valley walked away with the 24-21 victory.
“I think our guys thought we could play with the best guys in the state, but after playing the third and fourth quarter I think it should make our guys realize we are one of the better teams in the state. We just have to put four quarters together,” Kistler said.
The loss extended Powell’s losing streak in Afton, having not won a game on the road against Star Valley since 2013.
Final stats from the contest were unavailable as of press time.
KEY MATCHUP FRIDAY
A key conference matchup will come this Friday in the final home game of the season for the Panthers, taking on the Evanston Red Devils (3-3 overall, 1-1 3A West) at 6 p.m. on Friday.
“They are a good team and they are getting better every week,” Kistler said. “They run some similar blocking schemes up front so it will be a little bit familiar for our line in knowing what they are doing. Their quarterback is one of their leading rushers, he’s their captain and is very elusive at quarterback and can throw when he needs to.”
Evanston is coming off a 47-14 victory over Jackson which will make this likely a key game for seeding in the 3A West for the Panthers as they will look to finish with an undefeated record at home before heading on the road the final two weeks of the season.
Rankings are courtesy of the WyoPreps Coaches and Media poll. New rankings are released each Wednesday.