JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — The Jackson Broncs put up three touchdowns in the first half of Friday’s final home game of the season…and then hung on for dear life. It was much closer than most handicappers would have made it—a 21-17 victory over the visiting Powell Panthers—but a win’s a win and the Broncs never needed one so badly.

Sloppy play creeped back into the offense as the Broncs committed big penalties that negated big first down runs and committed turnovers over at key moments.

Jackson drove 78 yards on their first drive only to turn the ball over on a botched exchange between center and QB at the Panther 2-yardline. Slowly and methodically the Broncs drove down the field all night, converting on numerous third downs, hitting passes when they needed them, and getting tough yardage from star back Jeydon Cox.

There were very few big plays outside of a surprise Peter Goettler touchdown pass to Evan Brunner that was right on the money. Jackson earned every yard in a tough, physical game.

Same for Powell, who had great misfortune putting the ball in the air. Backup quarterback Jesse Trotter started the game in place of Landon Lengfelder who had a reported shoulder injury. After completing his first pass of the game, Trotter threw three straight interceptions to finish the night 1-5. He never attempted a pass in the second half. He didn’t need to.

With a 21-7 lead headed to the locker room and feting its seniors on Senior Night, the Broncs came out sputtering in the second half. Powell, on the other hand, as they’ve done all year, began finding more running room as the game wore on. Like Star Valley, Powell pounds the rock out of a Power I set with a bruising 225-lb fullback (Toran Graham) leading the way for tailbacks Kadden Abraham and Brody Karhu—the latter of which scored both Panther touchdowns while rushing for 134 yards on 20 carries.

With Powell roaring back to life, head coach David Joyce shrank the playbook and kept things ultra-conservative, dialing up running plays to Cox until the back racked up 203 yards on a season-high 44 carries.

Sadler Smith had a good day passing, finding Goettler, Brunner, and Nate Keipert on key pass completions. Smith finished the day 11 for 22, and again was the victim of 3 or 4 dropped passes that were right on target. Receivers were rarely wide open. The Powell secondary was good all night and Smith had to be sharp with his throws.

It’s not saying anything spectacular when one of your best players is the punter, but give credit to Broncs booter AJ McCool, who has not been called upon often this season to punt. He banged a few out of trouble that helped Jackson win a game of field position during the second half of play.

Playoff scenario

Surprise, surprise over in the 3A East. Douglas upset Riverton at home with a late touchdown to grab a 13-7 win. It wasn’t enough, however, to move the needle as far as the playoff picture. Douglas still gets top-seed Lander and Riverton finished as the #2-seed.

So, as expected and even with the loss Friday, the Riverton Wolverines will host the Jackson Broncs this Friday for the first round of the 3A playoffs. What it means for the Broncs is they will likely have to beat the two best teams in the West if they’re to win a state title.

If Jackson gets past Riverton, they will matchup with the winner of the Star Valley-Douglas game. The winner of that contest faces whoever comes out of the other bracket which is likely Cody, or perhaps Lander.

In short, the uphill road to a state championship for Jackson will most assuredly go through Star Valley and Cody. The Broncs will have their work cut out for them. First things first: Riverton awaits Friday, November 1.