Looking to regroup from last weekend’s 14-7 Homecoming loss to Star Valley, the Powell High School football team will square off against its third top five-ranked team in as many weeks. The Panthers will welcome in their cross-county rivals, the No. 4 Cody Broncs, on Friday at Panther Stadium.
There’s rarely any love lost between the Panthers (1-4, 0-2) and the defending state champion Broncs (4-1, 1-1). The last 10 regular-season meetings between the two are split down the middle at 5-5, with Cody crushing the Panthers 43-0 last season en route to their fifth state title. Though a quick look at the standings might give the impression that these are two teams heading in opposite directions, Powell has been in a position to win every game this season.
“I think going into the Cody game, we’re just going to be confident in what we’re able to do, which I think is a lot of good things. It’s really going to come down to executing,” said Powell head coach Aaron Papich. “We’ll work this week in practice on little situational things that might arise, but we feel really good and we’re excited for the opportunity on Friday.”
Cody comes into Friday’s matchup with the state’s fourth-best offense, averaging 313.8 yards per game, compared to Powell’s 240 yards per game. The lone blemish on the Broncs’ record came at the hands of Jackson, which has seemingly come out of nowhere to post a 5-0 record so far this season and secure a No. 2 ranking in the state behind Torrington. Cody had its hands full last week with Evanston before pulling away late in a 46-26 win.
The Broncs are led by quarterback Hunter Hays and running back Charlie Beaudrie, who’s fourth in the state in rushing with 534 yards. Conversely, the Panthers have the state’s third-ranked defense, and Papich expects his crew to have their hands full.
“I’m expecting Cody to play fast and play hard,” he said. “Coach [Matt] McFadden has a really good program, and they execute well on all levels. I know they’re going to come right at us. Beaudrie is a really good athlete, so we’re going to have to limit him with his yards. It will be a big challenge for us.”
Papich called Cody a “leverage team,” that he’ll counter with Powell’s leverage defense.
“We just have to trust in the fundamentals that we’ve been doing all season long, and trust in each other that we’re all going to be able to do our job,” he said. “It’s going to come down to execution and fundamentals.”
The Panthers are led on offense by junior quarterback Ethan Asher, currently ranked seventh in the state with 441 yards passing and four touchdowns against 10 interceptions. Asher’s favorite target this season has been all-purpose back Kaelan Groves, whose 13 receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns rank him eighth in the state. Powell also has a three-headed monster on the ground with Groves, Kadden Abraham and Brody Karhu, each averaging right around 4 yards per carry. Papich said he expects the offensive gameplan to remain the same, with executing it better the first priority.
“Offensively, it’s really just doing what we’ve always done,” he said. “It’s just about executing and going hard, focusing on effort and attitude. Our run game is going to be big, and obviously we’re going to put the guys running our passing game in a good position to make plays. We want to establish the run, but be diversified in that we’re also utilizing our passing game, as well.”
Asked who he expects to have a big game, Papich said Asher is due for a breakout performance.
“I think Ethan Asher is going to have a good game,” he said. “He’s a tremendous athlete and a tremendous leader and a good kid. I know he’s going to come out and perform, nothing more than he already does, but I know he’s going to trust in what he’s supposed to do for our team.”
Papich also heaped praise on his offensive and defensive lines, saying the big guys up front need to continue to do what they do best.
“They’ve shown they can play great as one single unit, and I expect that to continue,” he said. “We need a big night from those guys.”