Dark skies and lightning flashed over Lander Friday night, delaying the start of the Powell High School football team’s biggest test of the young season. But once the game was finally underway, …
Dark skies and lightning flashed over Lander Friday night, delaying the start of the Powell High School football team’s biggest test of the young season. But once the game was finally underway, it didn’t take long before the Panthers (3-0 overall) were at full stride on both sides of the ball. They dominated the Tigers (1-1) on their home field in an impressive 35-13 win.
The Panther defense picked up the offense on several occasions, limiting the Tigers to just 82 yards on the ground and keeping starting quarterback Brenon Stauffenberg second guessing his throws. Meanwhile, Powell’s running game was moving at full speed, gaining 303 yards on the ground; Reed Smith ran for 215 yards, highlighting a stellar performance on both sides of the ball.
The Panthers were only slowed by miscues, but when everything was fluent, they were unstoppable.
Once again the Powell defense came up with a big play early in the game, when Smith intercepted a Stauffenberg pass and returned it deep into Lander territory on the Tiger’s first possession. Powell moved the ball to the 20-yard-line before the drive stalled, turning the ball over on downs. But the Panthers had plenty of opportunities through the night thanks to their tough defense.
However, the Tigers did catch the Panthers off guard once, scoring first on a 64-yard pass by Stauffenberg to Gabe Harris early in the second quarter.
Powell bounced back quickly after a 48-yard run up the sidelines by Smith and a personal foul against the Tigers for roughing quarterback Jhett Schwahn. The penalty gave Powell a first down on the 6-yard line. They converted on the next play with a Sam Whitlock run and extra point by Hawkin Sweeney.
On Lander’s next possession, Schwahn intercepted a Stauffenberg pass and, once the Panther offense was on the field, Smith broke free for 30 yards to get the Panther’s into Lander territory. Then Schwahn connected on a 21-yard pass to Austin Graft, giving the Panthers a first down just inside the 5-yard line. On third down, Toran Graham ran the ball in from the 1 and Sweeney put the extra point through the uprights to make the score 14-7. Powell would never give up the lead.
PHS had another chance to get points on the board, but a penalty kept them out of field goal territory and Powell went to the locker room leading by seven.
Smith had 150 yards on the ground in the first half and no touchdowns. But that would soon change.
Powell’s special teams pinned Lander on its own 4-yard line on the opening kickoff of the third quarter. Lander moved the ball, relying on Stauffenberg’s arm, but then Smith grabbed his second interception of the night and raced 37-yards for the touchdown, giving Powell a 21-7 lead in the third quarter.
On the Tigers’ next possession, they drove the ball into Panther territory. But the Powell defense strengthened, forcing Lander to attempt a long field goal and Mattice Weaver’s 48-yard attempt hit the crossbar.
Smith then scored on a 9-yard run early in the fourth quarter to give Powell a 28-7 lead.
With the game in hand for Powell and substitutes on the field, Lander made its best drive of the night, moving the ball 80 yards and scoring on a 13-yard pass from Stauffenberg to Tisso Guina. But they failed to convert the extra point on a bad snap, making it 28-13.
Powell also had trouble with snaps from center, fumbling five times. The squad always managed to recover the ball, but the miscues led to Powell punts each time.
“It hurts when it’s on a first down,” PHS head coach Chase Kistler said. “It’s hard to make that ground back up.”
Kistler explained that center Dillon Melton had jammed his wrist, which required his arm and hand to be taped to restrict motion.
“It’s definitely something we have to practice this week,” he said. “All five of those bobbled snaps put us too far behind the sticks and ended the drives.”
Whitlock scored Powell’s final touchdown on a 34-yard run, making the score 35-13 after Sweeney kicked the extra point.
PHS’s annual homecoming game is Friday and Kistler hopes to keep his team on track through all the distractions of the festivities. They’ll be tested again, hosting undefeated Douglas, which is fresh off a 51-0 blanking of Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
“They’re extremely fast and very athletic. From their line to their skills position,” Kistler said of the Bearcats.
“With it being homecoming, the only thing we really need to do is focus on the football game itself. Hopefully, all the homecoming celebrations don’t interfere with our preparation,” he said, adding, “Our original plan is to get better each week.”
The undefeated Panthers are rated No. 2 in WyoPreps.com’s coaches and media poll, sitting behind Evanston in the Class 3A West Conference. Douglas is rated No. 2 in the East with a 2-0 record.