Wy-Home-ing Strong: Communities stand together at Zero Week scrimmage

Posted 9/5/19

It will be a contest remembered not so much for the football played on the field as for the sense of community it fostered.

The Powell High School football team traveled to Riverton on Friday for …

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Wy-Home-ing Strong: Communities stand together at Zero Week scrimmage

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It will be a contest remembered not so much for the football played on the field as for the sense of community it fostered.

The Powell High School football team traveled to Riverton on Friday for a Zero Week scrimmage against the Wolverines, the first live action of the season for either team. It was a game designed to give coaches and players from both teams a chance to evaluate themselves against live competition ahead of this week’s season opener.

But in the wake of a tragic accident that rocked both the Panthers as a team and Powell as a community, it became much more than that.

 

Coming together in a time of need

After word spread of Panther quarterback Ethan Asher’s injuries as the result of a truck rollover on his commute to school last Tuesday, the Wolverines’ football and volleyball programs stepped up immediately with a show of solidarity. Riverton High School asked patrons at the Zero Week football game and the Riverton Invitational volleyball tournament to donate what they could to the Asher family; between the two events, more than $6,500 was raised to help offset Ethan’s medical expenses.

Similar donations were collected at athletic events around the state, as well as at community gatherings like the Meeteetse Labor Day Parade. A host of local businesses are donating goods and services (as well as proceeds) to Ethan’s cause; a quick glance at comments and posts on the #EthanStrong Facebook page show support in the form of donations and prayers from across the region, including Texas, Montana and Idaho.

Following Friday’s scrimmage in Riverton, Panther running back Brody Karhu addressed both teams during a prayer at midfield, where he talked about Wyoming being one big community that looks out for one another in times of need.

“Brody talked to Riverton’s team after the game because of how humbling their support was for Ethan and his family,” said PHS head coach Aaron Papich. “He said, ‘This isn’t Wyoming, this is Wy-Home-ing,’ and I think that’s really true. Wyoming really is one big community, and you really feel it when you feel support like this for someone in need. It just really makes you proud to live in this great state.”

Karhu said he and his teammates were “amazed” by the outpouring of support from the Riverton faithful, calling it a blessing to be a part of.

“To me, that was more important than the game,” Karhu said. “Being able to come together and pray with them [Riverton] and also thank them for what they’ve done. We all came together for Ethan, and I couldn’t thank them enough for that. I hope that what Ethan’s going through touches the hearts of everyone that hears his story.”

 

Panthers prevail 32-17

After trailing 10-7 at the half, the Panthers came out swinging to start the second, rattling off 24 unanswered points. Official stats weren’t kept, but unofficially, Powell finished with 415 total yards — 323 rushing (8.5 yards average) and 92 passing.

“Our kids played great Friday night. They showed up and executed,” said Papich. “They showed up and were really focused. It was a really positive night. Going forward to Worland, we’re very confident in where we are right now for the season.”

For the Panthers, the game served as an outlet for the pent-up emotions that had been growing all week.

“We let it drive us. It helped lift us instead of bring us down,” Karhu said. “I was very proud of the team, how they took those emotions and used them to build us up as a team.”

Jesse Trotter and Landon Lengfelder both took snaps under center for Powell, and both had their moments, according to Papich.

“They played well, they both did their job well,” he said. “I was impressed with how composed they were with having more reps at the varsity level so soon. I think it’s very promising with where we are to have two quarterbacks that have so much skill. They’re competing against each other, they’re great teammates toward each other. I just think there were a lot of things on film that we saw that will help us be successful this year.”

Karhu, a senior running back, was a workhorse in the contest, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Karhu was without his running mate in the backfield, as Kadden Abraham sat out the scrimmage with a dinged hip.

“Kadden had a bit of a tight hip flexor, so we just thought we didn’t want to risk anything for Zero Week; we want him to be full go for Worland,” Papich said. “Our offensive line was doing a great job blocking, putting forth a great effort every single play. I think it was just a total team effort, and I couldn’t be prouder of our guys right now.”

Defensively, Papich said the Panthers got after it up front, putting the pressure on Riverton’s QB and disrupting the backfield. As a unit, the defense forced two fumbles and picked off a pass.

“There were three or four tackles for loss [and] we had three or four quarterback sacks,” Papich said. “A big part of the game for us this season will be turnovers, so if we can win the turnover battle, we’ll have a great outcome every time.”

The Wolverines led 10-7 at halftime, as both teams, battling first-game nerves, were slow to get started. The Panthers came out in the second half with a renewed focus, however, outscoring Riverton 24-7.

“At halftime, we told the guys to just trust in their ability and trust all the work they’ve put in over the summer,” Papich said. “Trust the guy next to you, he’ll do his job if you do yours. It was more just calming them down — it’s been a very emotional week. We told them let’s just trust in who we are and what we can do.”

Powell hosts Worland Friday in the official season opener, and Papich said the Warriors always play the Panthers tough. Last year’s battle between the two teams was a 14-7 slugfest, with Worland coming out on top; turnovers proved costly for Powell in that contest. Papich and his staff will continue to evaluate film throughout the week and decide on a starting quarterback Friday.

“If our guys play to their potential, then it’s going to be a good night for us,” Papich said. “We’ll have a designated guy at quarterback for this game, we’re just not there yet with who that will be. Come game time, we’ll have a starter.”

The Panthers and the Warriors square off Friday at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium in what should be a hard-fought contest. But as both teams line up for the national anthem, No. 3 will be at the forefront of their minds.

“Ethan has such a big impact on these guys, but we know for certain this is exactly what Ethan wants us to do — to go out there, to compete and to play hard,” Papich said. “I think that was one of the major things these guys were holding on to was knowing that — how excited Ethan is going to be when he knows how hard they played for him and that they will continue to do their best every day.”

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