18-year title drought ends for Powell (8-0), Panthers manhandle Navigators (6-2), 40-0

Powell’s Jayden Skipper (2) turns the corner against Challenger.Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
POwell;s Madden Buratczuk, who thre TD passes Tuesday night against Challenger, searches for a receiver Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

MIDDLE SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Panthers win turnover

margin, 3-0, capitalize behind

Buratzuk’s 3-TD air raid

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

BROOKSVILLE The 24th and final Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference football game – featuring second-seeded and top-seeded Powell – didn’t follow the script of a nip and tuck regular season.

On Tuesday, 18 seasons since Powell claimed its last county title under Mike Garofano – who left to become the defensive coordinator and then head coach at F.W. Springstead – a lively crowd at Nature Coast Technical’s Shark Tank Stadium watched Powell dominate Challenger K-8, 40-0.

Life is funny.

A year ago, Fox Chapel parted ways with its skipper John Capel after two games.

Though Capel continued his relationship at SHS as track coach, the former US Olympic Track sprinter was searching for next football coaching gig.

When Nicholas Altimeri was not retained following the Panthers’ 1-5 run in 2017, Capel applied at PMS.

In less than a year’s time, Capel transformed the county’s second-worst program to county champions.

On Tuesday, the reasons were crystal clear.

Defensively, a unit under Altimeri that yielded an average of 29 points per game, pitched its third shutout of the season.

Across eight tilts, Powell allowed 6.5 ppg. this season.

With Challenger spending most of its energy attempting to maintain quarterback Brady Nowlan in a clean pocket, concentrating on keeping Powell D-linemen Anthony White and Craig Corbett away, leaving others like Maximo Leaman, and Luca Garguilo and others to race up field.

What resulted was Nowlan being sacked a game-high five times. He ended the night with seven totes for a minus-12 yards.

Being harassed by the constant pressure in his face, Nowlan, a converted offensive-guard-turned signal caller, struggled clicking on 5-14 passes for 76 yards and two interceptions.

Complicating matters?

Each pick six – by John Capel III and Ayden Furguson – was returned 48 and 43 yards respectively for touchdowns.

When Taylor Fussell wasn’t rushing Nowlan he blocked a punt by Canyon Anderson – Challenger‘s third turnover on the night.

Offensively, Powell out-gained Challenger, 364-145. Though both teams secured seven first downs, the Panthers out-rushed Navigators, 155-69.

Of the eight backs Powell aimed at the Challenger defense – that arrived yielding a paltry 6.42 ppg – seventh-grader Jayden Skipper toted three times for 75 yards.

Skipper, who scored on a 59-yard end around also caught a touchdown pass pass (42).

Eighth-grade running back Allen Ho snared a game-high three aerials for 102 yards and scored twice (53, 43 yards).

Eighth-grade quarterback Madden Buratczuk, one of three signal callers utilized, connected on 8-of-15 passing for game-best 196 yards and three touchdown passes.

His backup, Ayden Furguson, went 2-for-4 for 22 yards.

Recapping the scoring

A bad omen appeared on Challenger’s first possession.

Fullback Christian Cromer, who rushed 15 times for 51 yards, and was the ’Gators’ most consistent offensive threat – opened the game with six straight carries.

On fourth down and five from Powell 24, second-year Navigator mentor David Barrett dialed up the perfect call.

Eighth grade tight end Ethan Kelczewski – who snared three other passes for 69 yards, faked like he was going to block and wiggled behind the free safety.

Kelczewski was wide open behind the secondary when Nowlan’s throw hit him in the hands.

Instead of a sure touchdown, however, the ball hit the turf incomplete.

Moreover, the opportunity to secure game’s early momentum swung away from 2017 county runners-up to Parrott.

So how did the Panthers respond?

Capel’s troops – that had bested Challenger on Sept. 11 in overtime, 13-7 – didn’t waste any time.

In six plays, Powell covered 76 yards to pay dirt.

Buratczak’s first pass attempt went for a minus-4 yard loss.

But second screen pass went to different receiver – Ho – and he sprinted 53 yards along the visitors’ sideline for the opening score.

Caiden Mellecker followed with the first of four point-after boots with 3:10 showing, 7-0 Panthers.

On Challenger’s next possession, Nowlan’s fourth down pass fell harmlessly to the turf with Leaman in his face as he released it.

The teams followed by trading punts.

Powell traversed 75 yards on three snaps on its third possession to double its lead.

An 9-yard out route from Buratczuk to Carlos Rodriguez set up a 59-yard end around by Skipper.

Mellecker’s second PAT with 5:05 showing in the second quarter upped the lead, 14-0.

On a subsequent fourth down and three from its own 49, Nowlan was sacked by Buratzuk – who also started at outside linebacker – for a six-yard loss.

On the next play – since Challenger was not adjusting to the screen passes – a Buratczuk to Ho pass went 43 yards to pat dirt.

Mellecker’s third boot split the uprights with 2:35 prior to halftime, 21-0.

More of the same

To open the second half, a 40-yard pass from Buratczuk to Skipper placed the ball at the Challenger 16.

The Navigators stiffened forcing a turnover on downs.

But two plays later, Nowlan’s pass to wide out Evan Faulkingham was tipped in the air.

Diminutive cornerback John Capel III won the tip drill and zig-zagged 38 yards for the first of two defensive touchdowns.

Mellecker’s fourth kick, however, was blocked, 27-0.

Challenger’s next possession ended with pair of incomplete passes turning the ball over again on downs.

From Powell 37, the Panthers maneuvered 63 yards on seven plays with Buratczuk connecting with Skipper on a 42-yard TD pass over the middle.

With 62 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Mellecker drained his fourth point-after, 34-0.

On Challenger’s next two possessions, Anderson’s punt was blocked by Fussell on the fourth play of the fourth quarter.

With 2:30 left in the game, Nowlan was sacked for the fourth time – this time by Leaman for a five-yard loss turning the ball over on downs.

On the game’s final snap – one snap after Nowlan was sacked for a fifth time by Furguson – he hurled a crossing route that was intercepted by Furguson for the game’s second defensive score.

There was no extra point attempted to close the books, 40-0.

Post-game discussion

The younger Capel helped rewind his first defensive score.

“I was running and Challenger’s No. 7 (Faulkingham) tipped the ball it up in the air, but I caught it. I remember running as hard as I could,” said the 12-year-old Capel III.

On the game’s difference, “It was Jayden (Skipper),” responded Capel. “He was the game. They couldn’t tackle him. Winning this game was huge for me, the school and the program.”

“We definitely win this game because of our defense,” insisted the 14-year-old Leaman, who said he’s headed to NCT next fall. “We were in their backfield the entire night.

“… I didn’t played last year. This is my first season, but Skipper deserves credit for helping us to win this game.”

Of Ho’s two title-game touchdowns, he said he was most impressed with the second.

“I saw the ball and No. 10 coming at me. I slid past him and took off,” smiled the 14-year-old, who says he’s heading to NCT.

On what was the team’s difference from 2017 to 2018, “We played together,” insisted Ho. “It really meant a lot to win this game.

“We didn’t have a good practice coming in,” shared the 13-year-old Skipper, who says he’ll attend Springstead in two seasons. “Coach was on us today.

Rewinding the tilt, “It was an amazing game. Ho’s two touchdowns were amazing,” shared Skipper. “I can’t describe what this means for a team that finished 1-5 last year to win it this year. I’m okay with walking into games next year with targets on our back.”

Coaches’ corner

Coach Barrett was apologetic.

David Barrett

“I’m sorry if we wasted your time. Today was not the team that has played for us all year; we weren’t the same team.

“We dropped some wide-open passes. Their guys would break 4-5 tackles to score,” recalled Barrett. “I thought when we got here we were fired up to play.

“… Give Powell credit they were much more physical. They sent two of our boys to the infirmary. This (loss) is a shame for our 24 eighth-graders. These guys have battled with each other to get here twice.

“I wish everyone of them the best luck in their high school careers.”

Capel traced his team’s success back to its roots.

Powell Head Coach John Capel makes a point. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“The kids bought into what we were selling in the summer. (Powell Principal) Miss Maner gave me a chance. The administration including Mr. Dye and Mr. Blackwell helped me along the way. Together we had to break down some barriers between the players, their parents and my coaching style. I love teaching the game of football.

“Once we beat Parrott to open the season, more and more of the kids and their parents got on board with what we were trying to do. They started believing.”

“I was very upset after Monday’s practice. I was up at 3 in the morning thinking what more could I have done to help prepare these kids for Tuesday’s game. The short answer: nothing. They were extremely loose when I saw them Tuesday. Luca, who has called the defense all season, kept insisting to me, “We got this!”

“What I take away is we faced a very well-coached and disciplined team in Challenger,” shared Coach Capel. “But we walked into this game with no fear what so ever.”

On reviewing the possible dropped TD pass on the first series, “I reiterated to our free safety, you’re not playing a person per se, bu7 an area. He got the memo for the rest of the game.”

On what Capel was most proud of, “That’s our O-Line. He started a kid, Orta, in the championship who started the season with asthma issues and wanted to quit three times. He stayed with it. He didn’t block a soul on Monday, but on Tuesday, he didn’t miss one assignment.”

“… We could be an even better team next year, shared Coach Capel. “We’ve got to find a quarterback and two outside linebackers. Other than that, we’ve got a lot coming back. I have to thank my wife, Ms. Maner, and the administration at Powell for this opportunity. There’s no way we could’ve won this on my own.”

All-Time Hernando County Middle School

Football Champions (2000-18/19 Seasons)

Compiled by TONY CASTRO

John Capel
 

YEAR

 

SCHOOL

 

W

 

L

 

.PCT

 

COACH

2000

Powell

3

0

1.000

Garofano, Mike

2001

Fox Chapel

2

1

.667

Isles, Troy

2001

Parrott

2

1

.667

Mobley, Dwayne

2002

West Hernando

3

0

1.000

Martinez, Benny

2003

Parrott

3

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2004

Parrott

3

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2005

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2006

Parrott

7

1

.875

Mobley, Dwayne

2007

Parrott

6

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2008

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2009

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2010

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2011

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2012

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Clark, Clarence

2013

Explorer K-8

6

1

.857

Walden, Rob

2014

Parrott

6

0

1.000

Bingham, Shawn

2015

Parrott

6

0

1.000

Bingham, Shawn

2016

Challenger K-8

5

1

.833

Teitelman, Brett

2017

Parrott

6

0

1.000

Bland, Justin

2018

Powell

8

0

1.000

Capel, John

 

-19-

 

-9-

Powell 40,

Challenger K-8 0

 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

TOT

CHAL

0

0

0

0

0

POW

7

14

6

13

40

Individual Scoring:

POW – Ho 53 pass from Buratczuk (Mellecker kick).

POW – Skinner 59 run (Mellecker kick)

POW – Ho 43 pass from Buratczuk (Mellecker kick).

POW – Capel 38 interception return (Mellecker kick blocked).

POW – Skinner 42 pass from Buratczuk (Mellecker kick)

POW – Furguson 43 interception return (no kick attempted).

 

CHAL

 

POW

First Downs

7

7

Rushing Attempts/Yards

34-69

17-155

Completions/Pass Atts./Int.

5-15-2

10-20-0

Passing Yards

76

209

Total Offense

49-145

37-364

Fumbles/Lost

0-0

0-0

Return Yards

6-66

3-58

Punts/Average

3-14.3

1-19.0

Penalties

5-35

4-27

 

 

 

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