Mistakes hurt Panthers in season-opening loss

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff


SAMUEL STAEHLING (25) gets ready to hand off to Plymouth teammate Cody Kuhn on a reverse play in Friday’s football season opener against New Berlin Eisenhower. PHS quarterback Gavin Falk is also shown. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley SAMUEL STAEHLING (25) gets ready to hand off to Plymouth teammate Cody Kuhn on a reverse play in Friday’s football season opener against New Berlin Eisenhower. PHS quarterback Gavin Falk is also shown. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers’ football season got off to a rocky start Friday night at Finke Field but they aren’t going to push the panic button.

The New Berlin Eisenhower Lions outscored PHS 24-7 in the third quarter en route to a 31-7 nonconference win.

“I thought overall our intensity was good and the players played with great effort. What we lacked was mental and physical discipline at times,” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus.

“We made too many assignment mistakes and weren’t always in good position to make tackles. These mistakes made a very competitive football game, 14-7 in the middle of the third quarter, and turned it into a lopsided final score.”

The Panthers trailed 14-0 early in the third quarter but pulled within 14-7 after senior tailback Samuel Staehling knifed through the left side for a 4-yard touchdown run. Jared Weinbauer kicked the extra point with 7:29 left in the period.

The TD capped a six-play, 68- yard drive. The big play was wide receiver Jake Schneider’s leaping catch for 37 yards on a pass from Gavin Falk which put the ball at the Titans’ 29-yard line. On the next play, Staehling busted through the line for 16 yards, and a 5-yard facemasking penalty was tacked on which gave PHS the ball at the 8.

The Titans answered Plymouth’s score with an impressive nine-play, 60-yard march on the ground to the PHS 20. The visitors eventually scored on a 37-yard field goal by Bryce Wesling which gave them a 17-7 advantage late in the third quarter. Senior running back Jordan Canady rushed for 24 yards, including a 12-yard burst, to lead NBE during the drive.


GAVIN FALK, Plymouth quarterback, winds up to throw as teammates Kyle Birenbaum (left) and Gabe Meyer (22) block the New Berlin Eisenhower pass rushers in Friday’s football game. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley GAVIN FALK, Plymouth quarterback, winds up to throw as teammates Kyle Birenbaum (left) and Gabe Meyer (22) block the New Berlin Eisenhower pass rushers in Friday’s football game. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley After receiving the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers moved the ball from their 33 to the NBE 38 where they turned the ball over on downs late in the third quarter. Falk’s 22- yard strike to tight end Zach Albers highlighted the series.

The Titans scored on their next offensive play when quarterback Sam Carey bolted 62 yards for a TD on a keeper around the left end which made it 24-7 with 32 seconds left in the third period.

The Titans’ final TD came on a 35-yard run by running back Joey Scaffidi at the 2:02 mark in the fourth quarter which upped their lead to 31-7. Scaffidi broke several tackles on his way to the end zone.

NBE took a 7-0 lead with 1:24 remaining in the opening period on a 16-yard scoring pass from Carey to 6-foot-6 wide receiver Sullivan Kulju. Kulju used his big height advantage over the defensive back to snare the ball in the right side of the end zone. Two other crucial plays in the possession were Carey’s 25- yard pass to tight end Jake Rastas, followed on the next play by Canady’s 13-yard burst which moved the ball to the PHS 16.

PHS missed a chance to tie the game at 7-7 in the second quarter when Staehling was stopped inches shy of the end zone after catching a swing pass from Falk on fourth down from the Panthers’ 3. The possession started at the Titans’ 47 and was ignited by Falk’s 23-yard dash to the 24 off a fake to Staehling.

NBE led 7-0 at halftime. The Panthers took the second-half kickoff and had a nice drive going when Rastas intercepted a pass and returned it 65 yards for a TD which gave the Titans a 14-0 lead with 9:29 left in the third quarter. PHS had picked up back-to-back first downs on a Falk’s 16-yard pass to Cody Kuhn and an 11-yard run by Staehling before the interception came three plays later.

“You have to give NBE credit, they have a very solid team with great size and speed. They made less mistakes and outplayed us,” said Knaus.

“We will work hard this coming week to be better prepared so that we don’t make as many mistakes, and will work on better tackling techniques and angles.

“As a coaching staff we will work as hard as we can to get these guys better prepared for the next game,” Knaus added.

Staehling led PHS rushers with 101 yards on 15 carries before departing at the end of the third quarter due to leg cramps. Schneider was the Panthers’ top receiver with 51 yards on three catches.

Scaffidi ran for a game-high 110 yards on 15 attempts. The Titams racked up 282 yards on the ground.


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