Panthers face tough test in playoff debut

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH — Berlin is only a No. 8 seed with a 5-4 record but Plymouth head coach Dan Knaus is impressed with the Indians who face the No. 1-seeded Panthers Friday night in a Division 3 football first-round state playoff game.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Plymouth’s Finke Field. The Panthers, who are making the school’s 13th straight playoff appearance, come in with an eight-game winning streak and an 8-1 record.

“Berlin is one of the best 5-4 teams I have seen. All of their loses are by less then eight points,” said Knaus.

“They play a very aggressive style of defense, so hopefully we can catch them with some big plays. They run a power offense, so we will have to play physical, disciplined defense.”

Knaus pointed out what impresses him the most about Berlin.

“They play fast and aggressive, and they have some very athletic players on the field,” he said.

“They blitz a lot on defense, so we will need to pick up those blitzes and hopefully catch them with some big plays.”

Berlin’s offense is fueled by its ground game which is led by 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior running back Nick Reinsbach. Reinsbach has rushed for 1,001 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Another key player for the Indians is 5-9, 190-pound junior running back/linebacker Mitchell Kramer. Kramer is the team’s second leading rusher and a defensive stalwart.

“Kramer is a two-way starter who is a hard runner and a very good linebacker,” said Knaus.

The coach pointed out the keys for PHS to win.

“Like always, we have to play mistake-free physical football in all aspects of the game, win the field-position battle and play Panther football,” said Knaus.

“We are only focused on this game like every other week. We will need to play solid to come out with a win. We have been playing well the past few weeks and will need to continue that going forward.”

PHS is coming off a hardearned 23-19 win over Kewaskum Friday night which gave the Panthers the Eastern Wisconsin Conference title with a 7-0 record. It was one of the few close games PHS has had this season and Knaus thinks it will benefit the squad going into the playoffs.

“It will most definitely help us moving forward. All games in the playoffs will be tough, close games,” he said.

Junior tailback Samuel Staehling leads PHS in rushing with 1,211 yards and 19 TDs. Senior wide receiver Zac Cain is the top receiver with 40 catches and six TDs.

Panther sophomore quarterback Gavin Falk has passed for 1,295 yards and 11 TDs, with an outstanding 63.3 completion percentage.

Berlin finished fourth in the Eastern Valley Conference with a 4-4 mark. Berlin and PHS will be together in a newly-formed conference next year.

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