Panthers roll to victory in conference play

by Matt Kraus Review Co respondent

ERIK OHMAN, Plymouth linebacker, narrowly misses batting down Ripon quarterback Andrew Saul’s pass in Friday’s ECC football game. Ripon’s Jordan Finley attempts to block Ohman. Plymouth’s Gabe Haun (left) also pressures Saul. – Photo by Clare Sedlacek ERIK OHMAN, Plymouth linebacker, narrowly misses batting down Ripon quarterback Andrew Saul’s pass in Friday’s ECC football game. Ripon’s Jordan Finley attempts to block Ohman. Plymouth’s Gabe Haun (left) also pressures Saul. – Photo by Clare Sedlacek PLYMOUTH – Following a one-game absence due to an injury, junior quarterback Gavin Falk returned to the Plymouth Panthers’ football lineup here Friday night. Teaming with senior tailback Samuel Staehling, the duo accounted for all five of the Panthers’ touchdowns en route to a 35-0 East Central Conference victory over the Ripon Tigers.

The win improved the Panthers’ record to 3-1 in the conference (3-3 overall), while the Tigers dropped to 1-3 in the ECC (1-5 overall).

“Gavin is important to our team. He is one of the team leaders and gave us a big lift by being back,” said Staehling.

“Gavin gives a dual threat in the backfield, so teams can’t just concentrate on the purely wildcat offense we ran while he was out,” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus.

Falk did not get a break-in period to get reacquainted with game contact. Following a kick-off return of 13 yards by Jack Nytes, Falk kept the ball on an option play, eluded four Tiger defenders and sprinted for 5 yards around the Panthers’ left end.

Staehling followed up with runs of 2 and 3 yards to give Plymouth a first down and 10 at the Ripon 44- yard line. After a Staehling 5-yard run, Derek Novotny got into the action, gaining 9 yards on a shuffle pass from Falk.

A 6-yard run from Staehling was followed by a Panther penalty and a second-and-9 situation. A swing pass from Falk to Staehling gained 12 yards and a Panthers’ first down at the Ripon 17. Following a run for no gain, Falk found Cody Kuhn for a 14-yard gain to the 3.

Falk’s swing pass to Staehling capped the drive with a Panthers’ touchdown. Jared Weinbauer’s kick gave Plymouth a 7-0 lead with 6:55 remaining in the quarter.

Defensively, the Panthers’ held the Tigers to 133 total yards and Ripon’s only scoring opportunity came at the end of the first half. The Tigers took possession of the ball with 2:20 remaining in the half after Plymouth scored to extend the lead to 21-0. A 35-yard pass completion from quarterback Shawn Timm to Luke Loewe gave the Tigers a first down at the Panthers’ 34. Timm completed a 12-yard pass Marshall Morrin for a first down at the Panthers’ 18.

The Panthers’ defense tackled Cody Merrill inbounds for a 2-yard loss on a first-down pass. Timm spiked the ball to stop the clock with five seconds remaining. Hunter Schneider missed a 37-yard field goal attempt. On the miss Ben Potrykus picked up the ball and attempted to return it for a Panther score but was tackled on the Tigers’ 35 to end the half.

“Erik Ohman [junior linebacker] is our quarterback on defense and does a good job sensing what the offense is doing with their alignments and getting our players in position.

“We were able to get able to get lots of pressure on their quarterback when they passed, even though we often only had three rushers. Ethan Keller [defensive end] and Joe Chandler [linebacker] played well on defense. Each had a sack and Ethan led the team in tackles,” said Knaus.

While the Panthers’ defense was shutting out Ripon, the offense worked to distance the Panthers from the Tigers.

The Panthers third drive of the night consisted of five plays, ending in a 39-yard touchdown run, in which Staehling took an inside handoff and looked to be stopped at the Ripon 30 when he ran into a lineman who was attempting to throw a downfield block.

Cutting back to his right, after nearly stopping, Staehling was able to sprint the final 30 yards untouched into the end zone for a 13-0 Panthers lead. The extra point was good and the Panthers carried a 14-0 lead into the second quarter.

In the second quarter, the Panthers missed an opportunity to extend its lead when a 32-yard field goal attempt landed short.

On the next offensive series, the Panthers gained 9 yards on first down but needed second and third downs to convert gain a first down. The first down play saw a Panthers’ a saw a running play lose 5 yards. A 5-yard penalty on second down gave the Panthers a second and 20 but Falk bootlegged to his left and found Novotny wide open for a 33-yard gain to Tigers’ 12.

On the following play Staehling took a pitch running to his right, and stopped, looking to throw back across the field to a wide-open Falk. Falk caught the pass and scored the final touchdown of the half. The extra point gave the Panthers their 21-0 halftime lead.

The Panthers scored twice in the third quarter on runs of 5 and 9 yards by Staehling, who ended the game leading the Panthers with 134 yards on 21 carries.

“The offensive line blocked great – both inside and outside,” said Staehling.

“We have good backs and we have an offensive line that is improving each week,” said Knaus.

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