Panthers seize ECC lead, earn playoff berth

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff


DEREK NOVOTNY, Plymouth tailback, rips off a 13-yard run in the third quarter of Friday’s football game versus Winneconne. Cody Kuhn (11) of PHS looks to block the Wolves’ Ashtin Busching. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley DEREK NOVOTNY, Plymouth tailback, rips off a 13-yard run in the third quarter of Friday’s football game versus Winneconne. Cody Kuhn (11) of PHS looks to block the Wolves’ Ashtin Busching. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers, fueled by a strong ground attack and a rugged defense, clobbered Winneconne, 34-7, in an East Central Conference football game Friday night at Finke Field.

The victory moved the Panthers into sole possession of the ECC lead at 4-0 and clinched a state playoff berth. PHS improved to 5-1 overall and extended its winning streak to four.

PHS dominated the second half – outscoring the Wolves 21-0 after leading just 13-7 at halftime.

“I thought we played well for the most part in the first half, we just didn’t finish drives and we gave up a late turnover. I thought we finished drives better in the second half and played a cleaner half,” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus.


GAVIN FALK, Plymouth quarterback, gets off a pass under pressure from Winneconne’s Dante Hesse in Friday’s football game. PHS lineman Logan Rusch blocks Hesse. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley GAVIN FALK, Plymouth quarterback, gets off a pass under pressure from Winneconne’s Dante Hesse in Friday’s football game. PHS lineman Logan Rusch blocks Hesse. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley The Panthers rushed for 255 yards, led by junior tailback Derek Novotny who gained 124 on 18 carries with one touchdown. The PHS defense held the Wolves to only 78 yards on the ground on 35 attempts (2.2 average per carry).

“I thought the offensive line did a nice job of opening holes for the backs. The defense played well with only a few big plays given up,” said Knaus.

The Panthers are in the driver’s seat as far as the ECC title goes. PHS is one game ahead of Berlin and Kewaskum (both 3-1). The Panthers have beaten Berlin and will host Kewaskum Oct. 7.

“We are focused one game at a time and have wanted to control our own destiny from the start of the season. Making the playoffs is always one of the team’s goals, so its nice to accomplish one of our goals,” said Knaus.

The Panthers scored a TD on their first possession of the second half. The Wolves lost a fumble on their first play following the second-half kickoff and PHS defensive lineman Gabe Haun recovered the ball at the Winneconne 29-yard line.

The Panthers cashed in on the turnover when Novotny ran 11 yards for a TD which gave PHS a 19-7 lead with 9:59 left in the third quarter. A two-point conversion pass failed.

PHS made it 27-7 early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Gavin Falk scampered 22 yards to the end zone on a read-option play which climaxed a seven-play, 47-yard drive. The series was set up by the Panther defense which stopped Winneconne on a fourthand 1 run, with defensive back Alex Shutter making the tackle on running back Wyatt Busching on a sweep.

On the Wolves’ next possession, quarterback Joseph Bissett’s pass was picked off by safety Falk who returned it 40 yards for a score which put a stamp on a key 34-7 victory.

“We came out in the second half and played our game and pounded them [with the running attack]. It was awesome,” said Falk.

“We had more intensity in the second half. We keyed their option really well. It was a team effort on defense. The offensive line really stepped it up in the second half and we ran the ball hard.

“We played as a team and we played hard,” said Falk.

“We made the adjustments at halftime we needed to make and figured out what they were doing on defense and we figured out how we could run on them, and I guess we overpowered them,” said Derek Schweiger, right guard and defensive lineman.

“We did a great job running to both sides. I’m proud of the team. It was a good win overall.”

The Wolves scored their only TD with 18 seconds left until halftime on a 1-yard run by Jere Franz. The key play in the 65-yard series was a 35-yard pass from quarterback Benjamin Heyroth to wide receiver Eli Berndt. The TD made it 13-7 at halftime.

“I thought Derek continued to run hard. I also thought Cody Kuhn played well on both sides of the ball. The offensive line was solid as well,” said Knaus.

Kuhn played running back, wide receiver and outside linebacker.

Mackade Mella and Novotny led the PHS defense in solo tackles with five each. Knaus thought the defense pressured the quarterback better and covered the Wolves’ receivers better in the second half.


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