By Bill Mynatt,
Radio Voice of Powell Panther Football on AM 620 WRJZ
Last year it was a semifinal matchup that saw the Powell Panthers eliminate the West Rebels from the playoffs. While it happened in the second round on Friday, the result was similar as Powell’s defense forced 5 West turnovers and parlayed them in to a 28-17 win to advance on to this Friday’s quarterfinal round in the TSSAA Class 5A playoffs. The Panthers will face Tennessee High of Bristol, who upset second seeded Morristown West on Friday.
Powell’s defense didn’t take long to get things cranked up. After kicking off to the Rebels, the Panthers gang tackled the West ball carrier on the game’s first play from scrimmage, forcing a fumble. Senior linebacker Devin Scott recovered at the West 34. After driving inside the 5, Powell opted to go for the touchdown on 4th and goal from the 2. From the power set, Scott snuck out of his blocking back position and worked himself wide open. Hagen Owenby’s pass found Scott, and after Austin Rogers’ point after, Powell led 7-0 at the 7:50 mark of the first. The scoring drive covered 34 yards in 8 plays.
West cut in to the lead late in the first quarter. A long pass play put the Rebels in business inside the Powell red zone. Facing 4th and short, West opted to go for the first down, but an illegal procedure penalty pushed the ball back 5 yards. After considering going for it again, West coach Scott Cummings opted to go for the field goal, inserting Stuart Hall for the try. Hall’s kick was good from 28 yards, and the Rebs had cut the lead to 7-3 with 2:01 to go in the first.
Powell put some distance between themselves and West in the second quarter with a pair of scores.
The first came at the 7:30 mark of the second when Owenby found Andrew Cox on a 12 yard slant route for the score. Cox made a nice move on the defender, cutting inside him and Owenby fired a bullet for the score. Rogers made the point after, and Powell led 14-3.
The second score of the period came with just 57 second left, as Owenby scrambled to buy himself some time, and then threw the ball deep down the middle of the field, where it found the hands of 6’5” and 230 pound freshman wide receiver Darel Middleton. Middleton made the catch just inside the 5, and barely got in to the end zone for the score. That 40 yard catch, after Rogers’ point after, stretched the Panther halftime lead to 21-3.
“That was a big play”, senior offensive lineman Michael Ashe told me on the Panther Post Game Show on AM 620 WRJZ. “That gave us a lot of confidence and momentum going in to the locker room.”
West cut in to the Powell lead in the third quarter. Senior quarterback Ryan Francis led the Rebels on an 11 play, 77-yard drive that consumed 7:20 of clock time. Sophomore Nathan Cottrell scored on a 3 yard run. The point after kick was no good, however, and West had cut it to a 2 score game at 21-9.
The Rebel defense then came to life and forced a Panther punt, but the offense couldn’t take advantage as they fumbled it right back to the Panthers in West territory at the 42. After a loss of a yard on first down, Powell junior running back Tyshawn Gardin struck, and struck in his typically quick fashion, as he started left and then cut back to the middle of the field, outrunning the West pursuit to the end zone. The 43 yard run, coupled with Rogers’ extra point kick, extended the lead to 28-9. From there it would be an uphill battle for the Rebels.
West did manage to make it a two score game once agan, as they executed a nifty hook and lateral play that went for a 70 yard score.
Francis found Jonathon Mixon on an 8 yard slant pass, and then Mixon pitched the ball to Lionel Morris, who streaked down the sideline for the score. West went for 2 and made it on a Francis to Marshall pass, and West had cut the lead to 11 with 59 seconds to go in the 4th.
From that point, everybody in the stadium knew what was coming. Hall’s onside kick attempt was unsuccessful, however, and Powell took over at the West 39 and ran out the clock to seal the win.
West saw its season end with a 9-3 record, another disappointing ending for a team that had aspirations of making it to Cookeville.
For Powell head coach Derek Rang, it was a special win.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, this one had a little extra riding on it for me”, he said. “I spent two years at West working under Scott Cummings and know those players and coaches well. I’m a competitor and wanted this one really badly.”
Rang, in his first year as the Panther head coach, had spent the prior two years at the Defensive Coordinator at West.
With the win, Powell improves to 11-1 on the season. As the number 1 seed in quad 1, it will host again this week in the quarterfinals, this time aganst the Vikings of Tennessee High. Tennessee High, the 6 seed, comes in to the game riding on the strength of two playoff road upsets.
The first came in the opening round at Daniel Boone, the 3 seed, as Tennessee High avenged a regular season loss with a 28-7 first round win. Then on Friday, the Vikings traveled to Morristown West and defeated the Trojans 29-21 to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. They are now 8-4 on the season.
“I really don’t know much about Tennessee High”, Rang told me. “I hear that they try to spread the field and throw it around a lot. We’ll trade some game film tomorrow (Saturday) and have a better idea after that.”
Owenby had a solid night both running and throwing the football for the Panthers. The talented junior completed 13 of his 16 pass attempts, good for 161 yards and the 3 TDs. He also ran the ball 17 times, good for 64 yards.
Montario Washington had 15 carries for 69 yards, while Gardin netted 45 yards on his 5 tries.
Weaver was the target on 5 of Owenby’s completions for 52 yards.
Scott, just as he has most of the season, led the defensive charge with 16 tackles, 2 for lost yardage. Brody Huskey added 8 tackles, and Dylan Sweat 6 to lead the Panther defensive effort.
Senior defensive back Jonathan Strozyk had an interception, snuffing out a West potential scoring threat, to add to his school career interception record. He now has 19 for his career, and 5 for the season.
Sweat also added and interception for Powell.
Francis had another outstanding game for West. The senior carried the ball 17 times, good for 111 yards. He also completed 6 of 11 passes, good for 92 yards.
Game time for Tennessee High at Powell is 7 p.m. The broadcast on AM 620 WRJZ and streaming at www.powellpanthersfootball.com begins at 6:30.