Panthers shooting for strong playoff run

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

THE PLYMOUTH PANTHERS celebrate with their fans after Friday night’s 28-6 win over Kewaskum which clinched the outright EWC football title. 
— Review photo by Greg Ceilley THE PLYMOUTH PANTHERS celebrate with their fans after Friday night’s 28-6 win over Kewaskum which clinched the outright EWC football title. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Panthers hope to make another strong run in the state football playoffs, starting with a Division 3 first-round game at home Friday night against Luxemburg-Casco.

PHS, a No. 2 region seed, is riding high coming into the postseason. The Panthers, 8-1, have an eight-game winning streak and won the Eastern Wisconsin Conference championship with a 7-0 mark. Last year, the Panthers reached the D-3 state quarterfinals before falling to two-time defending state champion West de Pere, 25-7.

“We are confident in this team’s abilities, are somewhat healthy and are excited for the challenge of a new season [playoffs],” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus.

“It’s always great to get a playoff game on Finke Field, and it’s good for the community and team.”

Last year’s playoff experience should help the Panthers who hope to go even farther in the postseason this season.

“It motivates them and gives them confidence that they can play with any D-3 school out there,” said Knaus.

Kickoff for Friday’s game is set for 7 p.m. Luxemburg-Casco, 5-4 overall, comes in as a No. 7 seed. The Spartans tied for fourth in the rugged Bay Conference which was won by Hortonville at 8-0, followed by West de Pere, 7-1.

The last time PHS faced the Spartans was in the first round of the 2011 D-3 playoffs in which Plymouth lost in overtime, 27-21.

“They are a senior-laden team They are big and physical, and they play power football,” Knaus observed.

“Like any game, it will come down to who does what they want the best, which team makes less mistakes and who takes care of the ball.”

Knaus said his team must take care of the football and execute the game plan as it has done the past nine weeks in order to win.

The coach said other keys to the outcome of the game are turnovers, play at the line of scrimmage and which team tackles better.

“We’re positive and excited for this [playoff] opportunity,” said Knaus.

The Panthers are making the school’s 12th straight playoff appearance.

The Panthers feature a wellbalanced offense engineered by senior quarterback Kollin Neils who is having a terrific season. Neils has an amazing 72.3 completion percentage with 1,816 yards passing and 21 touchdowns. He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 365 yards and five TDs.

Senior tailback Brad Trakel is the Panthers’ top rusher with 510 yards and seven TDs. Trakel has an impressive 10.6-yard average per carry.

Junior wide receiver Zac Cain is having an outstanding year with a team-high 40 catches and 622 yards receiving. Cain leads PHS in TD receptions with 11 and has a 15.6-yard average per catch.

The Spartans’ ground attack is spearheaded by senior running back Cole Kirchman with 935 yards and nine TDs. Kirchman is averaging 6.7 yards per carry.

Spartan senior quarterback Caleb Willems has thrown for 876 yards and eight scores. Willems has a 59.3 completion percentage.

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