Team effort, chemistry keys to PHS gridders’ success

SPORTS BEAT
Greg Ceilley  Review Sports Editor

The Plymouth football team has abundant talent, without a doubt, but it’s the Panthers’ strong chemistry and team mindset that have combined with that talent to produce an impressive season thus far.

It’s been an outstanding team effort, with players accepting their roles and stepping up at opportune times. This is the type of team in which the players aren’t concerned with their statistics or playing time but are all on the same page when it comes to doing what’s best for Panther football.

“We have great team chemistry. These kids have worked together during summer strength and speed [workouts] and want it,” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus.

Knaus pointed out what has impressed him the most about this team.

“That we have so many new starters from a year ago, and haven’t skipped a beat. That is the goal of the program – when it’s the next guy’s turn the expectations are the same, so work hard and your opportunity will come,” he said.

The Panthers have been dominant in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference en route to a first-place record of 5-0. PHS is 6-1 and riding a six-game winning streak into Friday night’s EWC game at Campbellsport. Knaus isn’t surprised the Panthers have been so strong in the league.

“We are playing well and the outcomes have been a direct reflection of that,” he said.

Knaus thinks the a balanced offense and strong defense have been keys to the Panthers’ success along with the team chemistry and hard work in the off-season.

“A balanced offensive attack keeps teams off-guard, and a very disciplined defense [are keys],” he noted.

The Panthers have been able to overcome injuries to starters because of players stepping up and making key contributions. PHS lost starting tailback Samuel Staehling for an indefinite period of time due to a broken wrist but Brad Trakel, who was splitting time at tailback with Staehling, has carried the load admirably.

The team lost starting wide receiver Clay Henning for the entire season after he suffered a shoulder injury in just the second game. However, wide receivers Zac Cain, Dominic Bocchini and Justin Picard have picked up the slack very well.

“To run a successful program you have to train and encourage all that if they work hard their time will come, and like at running back and wide receiver this year we have had some injuries and the next guy has filled the role and done an outstanding job,” Knaus said.

Knaus said senior quarterback Kollin Neils and senior offensive/ defensive lineman Luke Held have played critical roles in the team’s success.

“Kollin has been a three-year starter but has elevated his play even more this season, and is a very good leader,” the coach observed.

“Luke Held has been playing very well on both sides of the ball. But without solid play by everyone who steps on the field we are not in the position we are.”

Neils, an All-EWC quarterback last year, is having a stellar season. He has an amazing 71.8 completion percentage and has passed for 1,474 yards and 18 touchdowns. Neils has also rushed for 280 yards.

The Panthers also have a potent ground attack which is balanced. The team’s top-four rushers have gained over 220 yards, led by Staehling who has 305.

Plymouth has outscored the opposition an impressive 241-82. The Panthers are averaging a whopping 395 yards in total offense per game and their defense is surrendering only 211 per contest.

Knaus gives his coaching staff a lot of credit for the team’s success.

“As coaches from Gale Grahn, [offensive coordinator], to Jim Beaver [offensive line], Pat Brunet [defensive backs], Clayton Moore [defensive line] and Greg Gritt [wide receivers] we strive to work as hard as possible to prepare this team and every team we coach to be very well-prepared and be as successful as possible,” Knaus pointed out.

Another area that’s been key for the Panthers is their ability to take one game at a time and not look past any opponent.

“We still have plenty of games left and our focus is one week at a time,” Knaus said.


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