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The high school football season kicks off tonight. High school sports coordinator Jeff Kirshman and sportswriter Jack Nowlin look at whether or not Powell, which enters this season having won 27 consecutive games, can break Laramie’s state record of 34 games without a loss.

NOWLIN: It’s tough to bet against Powell, but I think Laramie’s record is safe.

The Panthers are no doubt motivated after the tragic death of former coach Jim Stringer from a heart attack on July 18, but Powell returns just six starters and lacks the overall depth of years past.

KIRSHMAN: This is not a Disney movie. Seizing the record will require eight consecutive wins by the Panthers -- an undertaking in itself for any team, regardless of past successes or extenuating circumstances. Powell enters the 2014 season with tremendous hurdles, both emotionally and tactically.

If Powell is to pull off the improbable and take the record as its own, what needs to happen?

NOWLIN: Obviously, a lot has to go right for the Panthers.

They open the season with three road games -- Miles City, Montana, Douglas and Buffalo -- before facing a talented Riverton team in what will be an emotional home opener on Sept. 19. Powell should be favored in every game, but no doubt Douglas has the Week 1 game circled on its calendar after losing two of the past three state championship games to the Panthers.

To add to the degree of difficulty, Powell will be without Super 25 Defensive Player of the Year Riley Stringer in the opener. However, the talented lineman, who is recovering from ankle surgery, expects to play on one side of the ball against Douglas.

I still think the Panthers are one of the favorites to win it all, I just don't know if they can run the table again.

In the long run, could losing early be beneficial to Powell?

KIRSHMAN: That's an interesting consideration. You'd hate to see the Panthers concede a game for the sake of avoiding additional tension in a situation already ripe with adversity, but a loss early could perhaps put the program at ease.

An end to the streak allows the Panthers to focus solely on football, and claiming a fourth consecutive championship is ultimately more important than a record-setting string of consecutive games won.

The heart-breaking reality is that Jim Stringer is no longer Powell's head football coach. The Panthers have been forced to figure out life without Stringer on the fly, and the task of moving forward could be less challenging without a preoccupation in commotion that, in the end, is extraneous to the team's goals.

I'm not saying Powell should look forward to the end of its streak, whenever it may come, but a loss -- particularly early -- could pay dividends in helping the Panthers achieve their goals later in the season. 

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