JACKSON, Wyo. — Tonight’s game with Powell will be Jackson’s biggest test to date. Yeah, yeah, we said that back when Star Valley came to town, but with a win secured in that one weeks ago, the Broncs now square off against the No. 2 seed in the state.

Top-ranked Jackson (6-1, 3-0) gets its second real gut check of the season when they head to Powell to take on the Panthers (5-1, 2-1) tonight. Neither team has officially clinched a playoff spot yet but both are poised to make deep runs in the post season.

Jackson has not lost to a conference team this season. Powell’s only blemish was a 14-0 loss to Cody—a game they would like to have back as players, coaches, and fans alike say it was far from their best effort.

The ‘common opponents’ favors Jackson, slightly. Both teams have played and beat Star Valley, Riverton, and Green River. Jackson trounced Riverton 57-7 and Green River 63-17. Powell, meanwhile, beat Riverton 37-7, and took care of Green River by a 44-20 score. The Broncs also beat the Braves at home 21-14, while the Panthers bested the Braves on their own field slightly more convincingly, 28-6.

Jackson put up another impressive offensive showing last week against Evanston. Photo: Tammy Urkoski Griebel

History would dictate

The Broncs record against Powell going back to 2004 is 5-11, but Jackson is trending in the right direction with wins in 2018 and 2019. One telling stat is how stout the Panther defense is. When Powell beats Jackson, they really beat Jackson.

  • 2017 – Powell 29, Jackson 0
  • 2016 – Powell 48, Jackson 0
  • 2013 – Powell 40, Jackson 0
  • 2012 – Powell 63, Jackson 6
  • 2011 – Powell 55, Jackson 0
  • 2010 – Powell 56, Jackson 0
  • 2009 – Powell 36, Jackson 0

And the 2020 version of Powell is pretty stingy on the defensive side of the ball as well.

The Panthers have given up just 53 points all year…in six games. Quick math: That’s less than 9 points a game. Jackson, meanwhile, averages a conference-high 42.4 points per game.

Steven Heffron (#42) was a beast on defense last week. Photo: Tammy Urkoski Griebel

Who wins, offense or defense?

“We can’t get too far away from our game plan,” coach David Joyce says about how Jackson might change things up against such a suffocating defense. “We are scoring. We are scoring more points in some games than they have given up all year. You kinda gotta dance with the one who brung ya.”

For Jackson, that means getting Brody Hasenack in space, out on the edge where he can take advantage of his speed. Joyce said play action pass plays might also be there and Sadler Smith needs to hit on those early when they’re there to help soften up the running game between the tackles.

Panther QB Landon Lengfelder. Photo: Max Preps

Powell’s offense hasn’t been electric like Jackson’s, but it’s been efficient. The Panthers like to pound the rock with senior Kadden Abraham until defenses relent. Abraham racked up 209 yards and 3 TDs last week against Green River. Overall, Powell rushed for 364 yards.

Senior quarterback Landon Lengfelder is also a dynamic player who impacts the game with his athleticism. He’ll throw when he has to (81 yards passing last week) but if it’s not there, he’ll tuck it and run (37 yards rushing last week).

“We’re hoping they do what they did last year. They were pretty stubborn, sticking to the run for basically the entire game. I don’t know if they saw something we didn’t. In the second half of the game against Green River they did that also,” Joyce said of the Panthers’ attack. “I hope they do because I would like to see their run offense verses our run defense.”

Joyce agreed Langfelder can be a gamechanger.

“We’ve been working all week in practice on containment for when he scrambles.”

When Jackson quarterback Sadler Smith gets opportunities against Powell, he has to convert in order to loosen up the Panther rush defense. Photo: Tammy Urkoski Griebel

Playoff picture comes clearer tonight

Jackson ends the 2020 season in control of its own destiny. With games against #2 Powell tonight and #3 Cody next week, the Broncs can win out and ensure home field advantage through the post season.

Jackson vs. Powell at Panther Stadium. Pre-game 4:30 p.m. Kickoff at 5 p.m. Play-by-play coverage on KZ95.