Panthers bounce back with impressive win

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff


JACK WERCH, Berlin running back, is stonewalled by the Plymouth defense for no gain in Friday’s ECC football game. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley JACK WERCH, Berlin running back, is stonewalled by the Plymouth defense for no gain in Friday’s ECC football game. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH – Coming off a lackluster 29-7 loss to county arch-rival Sheboygan Falls, the Plymouth Panthers played with renewed intensity and physicality Friday night as they pounded Berlin, 28-0, at Finke Field.

The Panthers were sparked by a ferocious, swarming defense and a strong running game. PHS held the previously unbeaten Indians to only 132 yards in total offense. The Panthers amassed 390 total yards, including a season-high 295 on the ground.

The contest was the East Central Conference opener for both teams. PHS improved to 2-1 overall and Berlin, the favorite to win the ECC, slipped to 2-1. It was a sweet victory for the Panthers who lost their previous two meetings with Berlin – 28-7 last year and 21-0 in a 2014 first-round state playoff game.


DEREK NOVOTNY, Plymouth tailback, heads upfield for a short gain on a reverse in Friday’s ECC football game versus Berlin. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley DEREK NOVOTNY, Plymouth tailback, heads upfield for a short gain on a reverse in Friday’s ECC football game versus Berlin. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley “We came out with great intensity and effort. We wanted to be better than last week [Aug. 26 against Falls] and they [Panthers] rose to the challenge.

“We were way more intense and physical, we tackled well and we flowed to the ball.

“It was a great team effort. This was a key win,” said Knaus.

Junior tailback Derek Novotny and senior quarterback Gavin Falk spearheaded the Panthers’ rushing with 106 and 104 yards, respectively.

The Panthers scored on their first possession with Novotny darting 10 yards for a touchdown on an end run with 3:30 left in the opening quarter. Falk added the first of his four PATs which gave PHS a 7-0 lead.

The TD drive covered 52 yards in 10 plays. The key play was an 11-yard pass from Falk to wide receiver

Cody Kuhn on third down and 5 which gave PHS first and goal at the Indian 10. Novotny scored on the next play.

Kuhn’s 5-yard TD run up the middle boosted Plymouth’s lead to 14-0 with 5:53 remaining in the second quarter. The score climaxed a seven-play, 61-yard series. Novotny’s 29-yard burst on the first play of the possession was the biggest play. One play later, Falk hit wideout Alex Shutter with a 12-yard pass to the Berlin 17.

PHS took a commanding 21-0 lead early in the third quarter when Falk sprinted 69 yards for a TD on a keeper after an outstanding fake handoff to Kuhn. Falk cut up the middle and broke a tackle attempt en route to the end zone. The score came on the Panthers’ opening possession of the second half after they received the kickoff.

Falk’s 25-yard TD run up the middle on an option play hiked the Panthers’ advantage to 28-0 with 4:28 remaining in the third period.

The Panthers’ swarming defense held Berlin’s standout running back Jack Werch to only 39 yards on 15 carries. The speedy Werch rushed for 107 against PHS last year.

Shutter (cornerback) and Kuhn (outside linebacker) led PHS in solo tackles with five each. Kuhn had a team-high two quarterback sacks. Erik Ohman (inside linebacker) led in total tackles with 10, including four solos.

“I think we were mentally and physically prepared. We knew what they were going to run and we were ready. We team-tackled and the intensity was there,” said Shutter.

“This is a huge win. We want to control our destiny [in the ECC race].”

“Once we started rolling on offense our linemen were jacked up and there was nothing that was going to stop them,” said Novotny. “We had some beautiful holes from our line.”

Knaus thought his defense did a good job of keeping the Indians’ speedy backs from getting to the perimeter and then forcing them inside.

“Our kids were disciplined [on defense] and did what they needed to do,” said Knaus.

“We had great balance on offense in the first half. Our offensive line blocked well. Derek, Cody and Gavin ran hard. Gavin played outstanding and was in command of the offense.”


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