Red Devils fall to No. 3 Powell, 36-14
Two TD catches for Drew Barker; Cody Friday
The Evanston High School football team entered the home stretch of the regular season Friday with a road trip to Powell, beginning a two-week stretch of games against Top 5 opponents.
Coming off a dominating 47-14 win over Jackson the week before, the Red Devils were hoping to carry that momentum over against the No. 3 Panthers, a team looking to rebound from a heartbreaking last-second loss to perennial Park County headache Star Valley. But turnovers and penalties had Evanston in an early hole they couldn’t quite dig out of, losing a hard-fought game 36-14.
“We got off to a slow start — take a couple of plays away in that first quarter, and it’s a different game,” said EHS head coach Steve Moore. “That first quarter against good teams, you just can’t put yourself in a hole like that — makes it tough to come back from.”
An interception on the Red Devils’ opening drive gave Powell a very short field, of which they took full advantage. A Cody Seifert touchdown run gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead. Evanston was forced to punt on their second possession, and the Panthers put together another scoring drive, with Seifert scoring his second touchdown of the game to give Powell a 14-0 first quarter lead.
The Red Devils began to get things going on their next possession, driving into Powell territory for the first time in the half. The drive stalled at the Panther 37, and a turnover on downs gave the home team the ball back with 3:32 to play in the first quarter.
Evanston’s defense – which had an outstanding showing the week before against Jackson — began to click, forcing its first punt of the game.
The two teams traded punts to start the second quarter, with Evanston having to start twice from inside their own 10-yard line. The Panthers intercepted a tipped pass deep in Evanston territory for the second time inPthe game. The Red Devils defense stepped up, with linebackers Brady Roberts and Cole Robinette combining with defensive lineman Kenyen Muir for a sack on Powell quarterback Jhett Schwahn. The momentum of the play was short-lived, as Schwahn connected with Trey Stenerson on the next play for a 12-yard touchdown, pushing the lead to 21-0.
“Our turnovers got to us — we need to do a better job,” Moore said. “We need to win the turnover battle. Our punt return put us in the hole a little bit, as well.”
The Red Devils began the ensuing drive on their own 20, and opened with a huge 39-yard run by Roberts that rejuvenated the Evanston sideline. A pass from Cohen Morrow to Drew Barker put the Red Devils inside the Powell 15; Morrow hit Barker on a slant on the very next play to put Evanston on the board with under a minute to play in the half. Jordan Mendez booted the extra point, and the Red Devils cut the lead to 21-7.
With time running out in the half, Powell’s Schwahn — under heavy pressure — managed to get a pass off before being run down, finding Evan Whitlock in the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown with one second on the clock. Brooks Searle blocked the extra point, but the Panthers went into the locker room with a 27-7 lead.
“The guys understood we came out slow, and that’s not Red Devil football, It’s not who we are,” Moore said. “We needed to show some character, some grit in the second half. Sure, it was 27-7, but it doesn’t take much to flip that script — couple of plays here, couple of plays there, and you’re right back in it. I thought they responded well, played much better in the second half. I just wish we hadn’t dug ourselves a hole, I think it would have been a much closer ball game.”
Evanston’s defense forced a turnover on downs on the Panthers’ drive to start the second half, and wasted no time taking advantage of a short field. Another pass to Drew Barker put the Red Devils on the Powell 14-yard line, though a penalty brought the ball back to the 19. On 3rd-and-long, Morrow was flushed out of the pocket. Scrambling right and trying to make something out of a broken play, he spotted Drew Barker in the end zone and let it fly. Barker went up and made the grab, and — as his momentum was carrying him out of bounds — planted his feet in bounds for the score. It was a big-time play from a quarterback-receiver tandem that has shown a knack over the last few weeks for knowing what the other is going to do when a play goes awry.
“Cohen and Drew are working together really well,” Moore said. “They have a good connection going in what we call our ‘Scramble Drill,’ when the original play doesn’t work. Drew does a great job getting open, and Cohen’s getting him the ball. But Drew is running a lot better routes, and when you get the ball in his hands, he does a lot of good things. He had a big night, on both sides of the ball.”
Evanston’s defense continued to keep the Panthers out of the end zone, holding them to three field goals in the second half. Powell’s defense proved to be just as stout, holding the Red Devils in check the rest of the way for the 36-14 win.
“We kept giving Powell short fields to work with,” Moore said. “Our defense held them to a couple of field goals, so that was a positive. But we can’t turn the ball over and give them a short field — good teams will always capitalize on that.”
Drew Barker led the charge for the Red Devils on offense, with six catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Morrow completed nine passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns; he also threw two interceptions. Roberts caught two passes for 48 yards, while Mendez caught one pass for 17 yards. Roberts led the team in rushing with 71 yards on 16 carries.
“Looking at stats, Powell’s run defense is tops in the state, and I thought we ran the ball effectively,” Moore said. “Our passing game is coming together, as well. I thought offensively we did some really good things. Defensively, we did some good things, but they had that big play there at the end of the first half where they scored a touchdown — I thought that was a big momentum shift there.”
Defensively, Morrow tallied 27 points (11 tackles, 7 solo, 1 sack, blocked kick) to lead the team, followed by Roberts with 19 (11 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, 1 pass defended). Drew Barker finished with 15 points (8 tackles, 7 solo), while Robinette had nine points (4 tackles, 3 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack).
“Our pass defense has been an emphasis — we’re running into these teams that throw the ball fairly well,” Moore said. “We’ve been working on our secondary, because the first two games of the season exposed that a little bit. We’ve also been stressing putting pressure on the quarterback, not letting him get comfortable. The last couple of games I feel like we’ve gotten better at that, for sure.”
Friday is Senior Night for the Red Devils; it’s also the final home game of the season. Coming into Kay Fackrell Stadium are the Cody Broncs (6-1), formerly the top-ranked team in the state in 3A, but coming off a stunning 41-14 loss to No. 2 Star Valley.
“Cody’s a well-balanced team, and very well-coached,” Moore said. “They’re fundamentally sound on offense, and on defense, they’re aggressive — they’ll get after you. We’re gonna have to execute our game plan, and do all the little things correctly to come out with a ‘W.’”
Asked what a victory against the Broncs would entail, Moore said consistency is key.
“We need to work on getting more consistent with our assignments,” Moore said. “It seems like we’ll run a play really well one time, then come back and run the same play — or go to the other side — and it doesn’t go so well. We need to get to where we’re running it well all the time, not just here and there.”
“We might have a few new wrinkles on both sides of the ball, but most of it is fundamentals,” Moore added. “Football is football — you can be as creative as you want to be, but if you don’t do the fundamentals correctly, things usually don’t work out too well. We have to make sure we do the little things correctly.”