Panthers face stiff test in second round

¦ Wisconsin Lutheran features 1,000- yard QB rusher
by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff


BRAD TRAKEL, Plymouth tailback, looks for a crack in the Luxemburg-Casco defense in Friday’s football playoff opener. Trakel is the Panthers’ leading rusher this season with 572 yards and eight touchdowns. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley BRAD TRAKEL, Plymouth tailback, looks for a crack in the Luxemburg-Casco defense in Friday’s football playoff opener. Trakel is the Panthers’ leading rusher this season with 572 yards and eight touchdowns. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH — Friday night’s Division 3 football second-round matchup between the Plymouth Panthers and the Wisconsin Lutheran Vikings figures to come down to turnovers and execution.

Both teams are coming off impressive first-round wins last week. The No. 2-seeded Panthers (9-1) routed No. 7-seeded Luxemburg Casco, 28-0, while No. 3-seeded Lutheran (7-3) hammered No. 6-seeded Kewaskum, 35-0. PHS will be looking to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight year.

The game at Plymouth’s Finke Field will kick off at 7 p.m.

“The keys for us are to take care of the football, play great special teams and do what we do as well as we can,” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus.

Knaus said the game’s outcome will probably hinge on which team takes care of the ball and which team can take away the others base stuff.

“I expect a hard-fought game with the team that executes best advancing,” said Viking head coach Kirk DeNoyer.

The Vikings run an explosive option offense, engineered by junior quarterback Logan McShane. McShane is the team’s top rusher with 1,145 yards (8.7-yard average per carry) and 14 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 176-pounder has thrown for 1,605 yards and 12 TDs.

Lutheran has another 1,000- yard rusher in sophomore running back Terrance Ward (1,104, 7.2 average per attempt) and a teamhigh 16 rushing TDs). Junior wide receiver Jacob Frey leads the Vikings in receptions with 22 and receiving yardage, 441 (20.0 aver- age per catch).

“They are fast and run their stuff very well,” said Knaus about the Viking team.

“McShane is a dual threat QB. He will run their option offense and will be one of our main focuses.

“On defense, they have a big defensive line and one of the keys will be how well can we control the line of scrimmage,” Knaus said.

“McShane is a very competitive, three-sport athlete who has executed our offense very well,” said DeNoyer.

Senior quarterback Kollin Neils heads the Panthers’ potent spread and I-formation attack. Neils has passed for 1,928 yards and 21 TDs, with an impressive 77.7 completion percentage. He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 487 yards and seven scores.

Senior tailback Brad Trakel leads PHS in rushing with 572 yards (9.2 average per carry) and a team-high eight rushing TDs.

Junior Zac Cain and junior fullback Tyler Willeford lead the Panthers’ receiving corps. Cain has a team-high 46 catches, 704 yards (15.3 average per reception.) and 11 TDs. Willeford has 34 receptions for 386 yards (11.4 average) which both rank second behind Cain.

“I am impressed with Plymouth’s athletic ability, their aggressiveness on defense and how hard they play in general,” said DeNoyer.

“It would appear our teams match up pretty well athletically and physically.”

The Vikings have a decisive weight advantage in the lines but Knaus isn’t worried because his team has been the smaller team against all of its opponents this season.

“We run an option offense and a multiple-front defense. We are led by Matt Zeitler on the offensive line and linebacker Dan Squires on defense,” the Lutheran coach pointed out.

Zeitler is a 6-1, 300-pound senior. Squires is a 5-10, 181-pound senior.

“We have continued to get better all season. Our strength is in our lines. We are very young at several key positions,” observed DeNoyer.

Knaus thinks playing at home will help the Panthers.

“It will help to play them on grass. They play most of their games on turf, so I would say that playing on grass will be to our advantage,” he said.

Matt Olig, starting junior offensive lineman for the Panthers, returns to the lineup after missing Friday night’s game versus Luxemburg Casco due to a shoulder injury.


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