Cowboys have strong start, lackluster finish in home opener

Friday night the Cowboys took the field for their first home game with Jeff Regan as Head Coach. The Cowboys took on the Powell Panthers in a non-conference game for Miles City and a zero-week game for the Panthers.

The Panthers travel to Miles City every other year to see different competition and compete against a higher level of competition, according to Panther head coach Chanler Buck.

The Cowboys came out strong in the first half, but had some penalty and turnover issues in the second half, resulting in a loss of 27-20 to the Panthers.

“We don’t ever want to lose,” said Regan. 

The first quarter had some interesting plays by the Cowboys, with Gabe Gundlach, Tyler Burk and Jacob Morris all throwing passes down the field. Gundlach was set up as the quarterback for the game, but he and Burk switched responsibilities back and forth.

“There are some things we need to take advantage of with Gabe’s skills and there are some things we need to take advantage of with Tyler’s skills,” said Regan of the quarterback adjustments. Caleb Petross would have helped as well, but he was resting a shoulder injury from the previous week’s practice. “I thought Gabe played pretty well his first time out,” said Regan. Gundlach hasn’t played football since he was an eighth grader and came back for his senior year. 

Jacob Swope was strong on defense in the first half, recording a sack and a tackle in the first quarter.

After a scoreless first the Cowboys were looking to makes some moves in the second quarter, led by Burk.

Starting on the Panther 14 yard line Burk pushed his way through the defense to get into scoring position. The drive ended with a tight throw from Gundlach to Burk, resulting in a Cowboy touchdown. Burk drove over the line for the two-point conversion, putting the Cowboys up 8-0.

The Cowboys defense put up a strong front on the next Panther drive. Seniors Alex Bradford and Caid Dickman were large forces on the defensive line.

Adam Glasscock had a powerful hit on the last play of the drive, forcing the Panthers to punt.

Burk and Morris had a pair of carries that gained only a little for the Cowboy offense, so Gundlach tried a third-down long pass to Burk which resulted in a 43-yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys were unable to convert the extra points.

The defense kept Powell at bay for the rest of the first half.

“Our defense played really good,” said Regan about the first half.

The Panthers had a quick first drive of the third quarter, making their way down the field with little resistance from the Cowboy defense. With a leap over the defenders, Panther quarterback Mason Olsen, scored the first Panther points of the game. They tacked on the extra point and cut the lead in half, 14-7.

Halfway through the third quarter the Cowboys forced a fumble and Morris recovered, turning the ball over.  Morris fumbled the ball on the second play of the Cowboys drive, but the Panthers were unable to convert on the turnover.

Morris fumbled again on the next Cowboy drive. The turnover put the Panther’s on the Cowboy 12, in prime scoring position. The defense did all they could but the Panther T.J. Abraham slipped in for the touchdown. The extra point tied the game at 14.

The next Cowboy drive was a short one. Starting on their own 25 Gundlach threw a bomb down the left side of the field to Burk, resulting in a 76-yard touchdown pass, and extending the Cowboys lead—20-14. Burk ended the game with 177 receiving yards and eight total catches. This is the second time Burk has received 8 catches in a game and he is tied for 6th-most in team history for a single game.

The Panthers came back quickly scoring on their next drive and overtaking the lead with the kick after. 

The Cowboy’s couldn’t stop the Panthers once they started, allowing another Panther touchdown, but blocking the point after. Unfortunately the damage was done.

“I’ve got to tip my hat to the Cowboys,” said Buck. “They are at home and came out guns blazing, but I’ve got to be pretty proud of my boys and their willingness to respond.”

He said he was upset with the loss, “We had way too many penalties and turnovers.” Regan was happy with how hard his players played, but he felt the execution wasn’t where it needed to be.

Regan said he was pleased with the leadership of Burk, Swope and Mason Dinardi and was happy with the way they played.