Last week’s 41-14 upset of Lander, the No. 1 seed out of Class 3A East, is firmly in the rearview mirror: The Powell High School football team now has its sights set on a rematch with …
Last week’s 41-14 upset of Lander, the No. 1 seed out of Class 3A East, is firmly in the rearview mirror: The Powell High School football team now has its sights set on a rematch with cross-county rival Cody in the 3A state semifinals.
A bruised and battered Panther squad didn’t put up much of a fight the first time these two teams met in mid-October, falling to the Broncs 38-14. Since that game, however, Powell began playing its best football of the season, culminating in last week’s win over the Tigers. The Panthers (6-4, 2-3 in 3A West) had a healthy roster for the first time all year, and it showed on the stat sheet. It will be a different team Friday that steps off the bus at Spike Vannoy Field against Cody (8-1, 4-1 in 3A West).
And this time, it’s for a trip to the 3A state title game in Laramie, with the loser watching from home.
“We have a very deep tradition with Cody,” said PHS head coach Aaron Papich. “Coach [Matt] McFadden has a great program, and those guys are going to be ready to go. But our guys have been working really hard and have continued to improve throughout the season. I think that just adds to the excitement of this game.”
Cody head coach Matt McFadden agreed, adding that while both teams have a healthy respect for one another, neither will waste any time getting after it.
“I love it — rivalry games are what make football so great, and this is a great one,” he said. “Most of our road trips are hours and hours away, sometimes clear across the state. To have a really quality opponent that’s 20 minutes away is kind of rare in Wyoming, especially in 3A. Both teams always have the same kinds of kids — very physical, tough, hard-working kids. You throw away all the records when these two teams meet. It’s intense, and that’s how you want a rivalry to be.”
The Broncs made short work of Worland in their quarterfinal contest last week, racking up almost 500 yards of offense in a 55-26 win. Five different players found the end zone, led by Matt Sandoval’s 160 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“Our offensive line did a terrific job, and that’s where it starts for us,” McFadden said. “The guys up front did well and our running backs followed suit, they did a good job reading blocks. Everything kind of fell in line from there.”
Powell had comparable numbers against Lander, led by 139 yards on the ground and two touchdowns by junior tailback Kadden Abraham. Fellow backs Brody Karhu and Toran Graham also added to the mix, with 93 and 73 yards, respectively.
Defensively, the Panthers stepped up big against Lander, especially in the first half. They’ll need to play as good or better to counter Cody’s high-powered attack.
“Cody is a very good, very sound team, and to be successful we have to control the edge,” Papich said. “They do an awesome job with their down blocks and their pulls. It’s going to come down to the play of our line, one play at a time, as hard as you can.”
For the Broncs, McFadden said his team needs to be prepared to face a Panther team that’s playing with a lot more confidence than they showed in the previous contest.
“Powell is a totally different team this time around,” McFadden said. “I think we had the benefit of them being a little beat up when we played them. It looks like they’re healthy again, so that will make a huge difference. And that run game is rolling — they look really good.”
Both coaches agree that Friday’s game will be won or lost in the trenches.
“With how Powell’s been playing lately, our O-line and D-line have to have a great game,” McFadden said. “The guys in the trenches are really going to have to come to battle.”
“I think that first game against Cody, we were trying to do too much,” Papich said. “Our team has really solidified since we played them last. Our guys just trust each other and play great together, so I know it’s going to be a different game.”
“Our players are ready to go, and I know Cody will be as well,” he added. “I expect a great night.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Cody High School.