Panthers eye first state title Friday

By Steve Williams

If anything beneficial came from Powell’s surprisingly easy win over West, it was that you can’t take anything for granted.

The Panthers stunned the Rebels and onlookers 35-7 in a TSSAA Class 5A semifinal showdown Friday night at cold Bill Wilson Field. Almost everyone on hand was expecting a close game, maybe even a nail biter.

“Including me,” said Powell Head Coach Matt Lowe.

Now all that’s left for Powell to do to put its first state football championship in the books is turn the Page.

Once-beaten Page High (13-1) earned its title berth opposite Powell (12-2) by rallying for a 56-52 win over Henry County. The two teams will meet this Friday night at 7 in the Blue Cross Bowl at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, the TSSAA’s new home for its state finals.

Henry County, incidentally, defeated Powell 17-14 in a battle of unbeatens in Coach Lowe’s first trip to the state in 2011 at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. This time things may turn out differently as the Panthers looked like a state title team against West (11-3).

“We’ll find out,” said Lowe. “We’re one win away.

“That’s a really good Knox West team. Those guys have been destroying people lately.

“Bottom line,” added Lowe, “we had kids who were ready to play.”

Junior wide receiver Ayden Greene, who was one of Powell’s top contributors on offense with 91 receiving yards and two TDs, came into the contest with high hopes.

“I figured we would come in with the right mentality and come out with the win,” he said. As for the difference in the game, Greene felt it was “Our energy compared to their energy. I think we shocked them. They didn’t know what to do and they kinda folded and that set the path for the rest of the game.”

Powell’s offense came out clicking on all cylinders although its opening drive resulted in a missed field goal.

The Rebels couldn’t move the ball and punted and Powell drove 46 yards to score. Greene pulled in a 13-yard pass from junior quarterback Jordyn Potts for a first-and-goal and senior RB Jarvis Stockton scored from the 3. Dylan Stooksbury’s kick made it 7-0.

West again couldn’t move the ball, but that wasn’t the worst. A fourth down snap sailed over punter Yossi Burch’s head and rolled to the Rebels’ 7-yard line, where Burch fell on it. Greene took advantage of the mistake with a 10-yard TD catch to make it 14-0.

West’s third possession saw QB Carson Jessie sacked twice. Later, the Rebels were forced to punt again. This time a low snap resulted in Burch scrambling to get off a punt that ended up being recovered at the West 5. Fortunately for the Rebels, Potts’ first down pass was intercepted by Cooper Shymlock.

After West managed to pick up its only first down of the half, Powell went on another TD drive. Jervis Brown III caught two passes and Potts hit Greene with a 14-yard pass for first-and-goal at the 2.

Big Walter Nolan was tackled by linebacker Brock Hatcher for a 4-yard loss and injured on the next play. The Texas A&M commitment slowly walked off the field but would later return. Potts scored on a 6-yard run to make it 21-0.

Problems continued for the West offense as Jessie’s first down pass was intercepted by Gianni Magdos and returned 37 yards. Powell then added a fourth score late in the half with a well-executed trick play. Potts handed the ball off to wide receiver Adarius Redmond, who took off on what appeared to be a jet sweep. But Redmond pulled up and hit Greene with a 26-yard TD pass.

The Rebels drove to the Powell 20-yard to begin the second half, but Jessie lost a fumble to Panther senior linebacker Cannon Lusby. Jessie was replaced by sophomore Hunter Dance later in the quarter.

Potts scored on a 1-yard keeper to make it 35-0 in the fourth quarter. Brayden Latham got into the end zone on a 14-yard run for the Rebels with 1:47 to go.

“We made too many mistakes – and that’s nobody’s fault but mine – especially in the first half,” said West Coach Lamar Brown. “But credit goes to Powell. They came ready to play. They are a great football team.”

Greene, a two-sport standout, said he will join the Panthers’ basketball team after the state finals.

He has something really important to take care of first. And that is, he said, “Make history at Powell High School and win a state championship.”