Panthers open season with thrilling victory

NEW BERLIN – Quarterback Gavin Falk’s 48-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Alex Shutter with only 2:41 left to play gave the Plymouth Panthers a wild 34-28 football win over New Berlin Eisenhower here Friday night.

The nonconference game, which included a lightning delay, was the season debut for both teams. PHS avenged a 31-7 loss to the Lions in last year’s opener.

The TD pass came after the Lions had scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 28-28.

“It was a nice win to start the season off against a very good opponent. The keys to the win were that we created five turnovers and made big plays when needed,” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus.

“I was pleased with our offensive balance. We kept them off guard and moved the ball well,” Knaus said.

PHS junior defensive back Derek Novotny had a 63-yard interception return for a TD which gave his team a 21-0 lead in the third quarter. Falk picked off two passes and had a fumble recovery from his defensive back spot. Defensive lineman Gabe Haun also recovered a fumble.

“I was disappointed that we didn’t finish off well. We gave them too many opportunities with special-teams errors. They recovered covered two onside kicks. It [special teams’ practice] will be a focus this week for sure,” said Knaus.

“Give them credit though. They were able to pick up our blitzes better in the fourth quarter and made some big plays.”

Lion quarterback Bryce Miller fired three TD passes in the final period as his team erupted for 28 points after trailing 28-0.

Falk and Shutter also connected for a 58-yard scoring strike in the third quarter. The Panthers exploded for 21 points in the third period to build their 28-0 lead.

Shutter, a senior, had two catches for a team-high 106 yards on the night. Novotny, a tailback, rushed for 72 yards to lead PHS and also ran for a TD.

“It was a good, hard-fought win. We overcame some adversity with a lightning delay and the Eisenhower rally but we showed good heart and came out with the win,” said Knaus.

“I thought Derek Novotny played an outstanding game. He really stepped up and ran hard and had a huge pick-six. Alex Shutter made two great catches for TDs and played well on defense [at defensive back].

“Gavin made good decisions and threw the ball well, and had two big interceptions on defense. The offensive line, led by Derek Schweiger, played with great heart and played hard. Mackade Mella played very well at outside linebacker and created a huge turnover on a sack early in the game,” the coach pointed out.

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