Panthers earn third straight EWC title

by Matt Kraus Review Correspondent


SAMUEL STAEHLING (25), Plymouth tailback, slams through the Kewaskum defense as teammate Derek Schweiger (65) blocks during Friday night’s EWC football showdown. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley SAMUEL STAEHLING (25), Plymouth tailback, slams through the Kewaskum defense as teammate Derek Schweiger (65) blocks during Friday night’s EWC football showdown. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH – The Kewaskum Indians and Brandon Thull, the state’s leading rusher with 1,738 yards coming into last week, rolled into Plymouth Friday night looking for an Eastern Wisconsin Conference Championship.

The Indians and Panthers entered the game tied atop the EWC but PHS left the field as the unbeaten EWC champions at 7-0 and improved to 8-1 overall with a 23- 19 comeback win.

PHS pulled out the victory on a 4-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Andrew Staehling with only 1:08 remaining in the game which erased a 19-16 defi- cit. The EWC title is the Panthers’ third straight. Kewaskum finished second at 6-1 and dropped to 8-1 overall.

“It feels great for these guys to accomplish a goal like this together. It shows that all the hard work that they put in pays off,” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus about winning the title.


THE PLYMOUTH PANTHERS celebrate Friday night’s 23-19 win over Kewaskum in a battle for the EWC football title. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley THE PLYMOUTH PANTHERS celebrate Friday night’s 23-19 win over Kewaskum in a battle for the EWC football title. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley The Panthers earned a No. 1 seed in their Division 3 state playoff bracket and will host No. 8-seeded Berlin Friday at 7 p.m.

Thull’s third touchdown, a 5-yard run with 6:33 remaining in the game, gave Kewaskum its first lead, 19-14. The Indians failed to convert a two-point conversion run by Thull.

Following Kewaskum’s kickoff, the Panthers responded by gaining 12 yards on a pass completion from quarterback Gavin Falk to wide receiver Zac Cain. Falk completed a 6-yard pass to wideout Jake Schneider and Samuel Staehling ran for 5 yards to earn Plymouth a first down at the Kewaskum 41-yard line but that is where the drive stalled.

The Panthers lost 2 yards on the following three plays and on fourth down, with 3:37 remaining, the Panthers punted. As the ball bounced and then rolled toward the goal line, Cain was able to slide between the ball and the goal line, stopping the ball inside the Kewaskum 1.

A fumble on the hand-off exchange between Thull and quarterback Michael Prochnow resulted in a safety after Kewaskum recovered the fumble in the end zone. The score brought the Panthers within 19-16.

Regarding the sequence of plays from the decision to punt to the safety, Knaus said, “For us it was all about the odds. The odds of converting a fourth-and-12 were riskier than punting to them.

“Zac’s play was what his job always is but it was just an athlete with good body awareness making a play,” said Knaus.

Cain said, “I saw the returner was not going to catch the ball, so I went for it.”

Schneider returned Kewaskum’s free kick to the Kewaskum 42 and the Panthers were set for a game-winning drive but the Panthers’ first play resulted in an 8-yard loss. Falk responded with an 8-yard completion to Dominic Bocchini and a 10-yard completion to Cain for a first down.

A 25-yard catch and run by Tyler Willeford gave the Panthers first-and-goal from the 6-yard line. Willeford caught another pass for a 2-yard gain and Staehling followed with a run around the left end for his third TD of the game. The PAT by Jared Weinbauer gave the Panthers a 23-19 lead.

On second-and-10 from the Indians’ 20-yard line, Falk intercepted Prochnow’s pass and sealed the victory for the Panthers.

“It feels really good [to be EWC champions],” said PHS senior defensive end Ryan Brooks. “It was a great game, we played hard and came out on top. I’m proud of the team.”

Reflecting on the season thus far, PHS senior lineman Matt Olig said, “There is not one key to our success. We are motivated by each step – one game, one play and a new goal every week.”

Senior running back/linebacker Willeford added, “Low expectations were our fuel. We weren’t picked to do this well.”

Plymouth opened the scoring with 7:06 remaining in the second quarter. Staehling ran in from 1 yard out to conclude a 12-play, 67- yard drive.

Plymouth’s defense responded by forcing Kewaskum to lose 1 yard on the subsequent drive and punt on fourth down. However, Falk lost a fumble on Plymouth’s first offensive play, giving the ball back to Kewaskum.

“I was mad at myself for the fumble. Normally it doesn’t help me but today it motivated me,” said Falk.

Thull followed the turnover with a 33-yard run to the Plymouth 5. Two plays later, he scored on a 3-yard run and the game was tied, 7-7.

The teams went to halftime tied, 7-7, but it only took two plays in the second half for Staehling to explode for 41 yards and his second score of the game which put PHS up 14-7.

Plymouth maintained the 14-7 lead until 24 seconds remained in the third quarter when Thull ran around the right end and dove into the end zone for a TD and 14-13 Panther lead. The extra-point attempt failed as the snap was low and not controlled by the holder.

Staehing finished the game with 157 yards rushing on 19 rushes, one reception for 27, an interception on Kewaskum’s opening drive of the game and a pass defended.

“Samuel is a huge part of what we do on all phases of the game. He is an outstanding athlete that flat out makes plays,” said Knaus.

“We battled like heck,” said Indian head coach Jason Piittmann. “A couple of mistakes and a couple of breaks didn’t go our way and they knocked us off. It was a heck of a game.

“It was very much so a hardhitting, physical game. Turnovers and field position made a big difference in the game.”

Even in defeat, Thull was not denied his yards from scrimmage as he finished with 189 yards rushing.

“We knew Thull was going to get some yards. We focused on keeping him from breaking big runs and I thought we did well with that. Defensively, we played well.”

KEWASKUM 19

PLYMOUTH 23

Kew Ply
First Downs….…….........12 12
Rushing Yards….……...199 139
Passing Yards.................57 156
Comp-Att-Int……......8-17-2 16-20-0
Penalties-Yards............4-25 3-18
Punts-Averages...........6-33 6-36
Fumbles-Lost……….….2-0 1-1

Score by Quarters

Kewaskum.....................076619
Plymouth…....................077923

Scoring

Ply – Samuel Staehling 1 run (Jared Weinbauer kick)

Kew – Brandon Thull 3 run (Ben Watzig kick)

Ply – Staehling 41 run (Weinbauer kick)

Kew – Thull 15 run (kick failed)

Kew – Thull 5 run (run failed)

Ply – Safety, Kewaskum fumble recovery in its end zone

Ply – Staehling 4 run (Weinbauer kick)

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing – Kewaskum, Brandon Thull 31-189. Plymouth, Samuel Staehling 19-157.

Passing – Kewaskum, Michael Prochnow 8-17-2-57. Plymouth, Gavin Falk 15-17-0-130, Zac Cain 1-1-0-26.

Receiving – Kewaskum, Berat Almazi 1-25, Thull 2-21, Charles Witek 2-21. Plymouth, Zac Cain 8-53, Dominic Bocchini 3-55, Tyler Willeford 3-34, Staehling 1-26.


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