The envelope please… Plymouth picked to win league

by Dave Boehler
Review Sports Editor

PLYMOUTH’S OFFENSIVE AND defensive linemen get ready for contact at a recent practice. The Panthers open the season Friday at New Berlin Eisenhower. – Photo by Tyler Luedtke PLYMOUTH’S OFFENSIVE AND defensive linemen get ready for contact at a recent practice. The Panthers open the season Friday at New Berlin Eisenhower. – Photo by Tyler Luedtke East Central football coaches predict Plymouth will take first place this season, but Panthers’ 12th-year coach Dan Knaus is unfazed.

“I know how we all work the (prediction) game a little bit,” he said. “You never put yourself up there and put everybody else. I mean, the last few years it’s been Berlin, Kewaskum and Plymouth that have been battling for the spot. So one of us is always going to end up being picked as the favorite. So it just is what it is. But I don’t put a lot of stock into that. We’ve got to perform on Friday nights to earn something.”

At 7 p.m. Friday, Plymouth opens its season at New Berlin Eisenhower after taking third in the league with a 5-2 mark (7-4 overall) last year.

First-place Kewaskum (7-0) and runner-up Berlin (6-1) were the conference teams to beat the Panthers, and that was by a total of only 13 points. Plymouth rebounded to advance to the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season, only to suffer a 35-0 loss to Whitefish Bay in the second round of Division 3.

“It was so close to being an amazing season,” Knaus said. “But it was still a solid season. We lost three games in the regular season by less than a touchdown each to New Berlin Eisenhower, Kewaskum and Berlin, who were all either 9-0 or 8-1 on the regular season. We ran into a buzzsaw at Whitefish Bay. We were so close to outstanding. All four of our losses were to really good programs.”

However, eight players who made the all-conference team have to be replaced, including first-team outside linebacker Mackade Mella, who was named the co-defensive player of the year thanks to 50 tackles, five forced fumbles and four sacks.

Other first-teamers include running back Derek Novotny, who led the league with 989 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns, as well as quarterback Cade Knaus, offensive lineman Josh Klister and defensive end Gabe Haun.

Three players do return after making all-East Central, led by senior Jack Nytes. He was named to the first team as a fullback and inside linebacker, as Nytes was fifth in conference games with 58 tackles.

Knaus calls Nytes a physical player who enjoys contact.

“Playing fullback and linebacker suits that personality,” Knaus said. “Him and the offensive line are what key our offense. They create the holes for the backs, they protect on pass protection, and Jack is athletic enough that he catches the ball pretty well out of the backfield when we use him for that. He’s a pretty integral part to what we do offensively, for sure.”

Running back Josh Koll is back after making the second team. The hard-nosed, downhill runner according to his coach finished with six touchdowns and 697 yards rushing, and ranked fifth in the league with 500 yards in East Central contests.

“He’s not the biggest kid in the world, but he’s fast,” Knaus said. “He’s not a dancer and even if the play doesn’t get blocked as well as we’d like, he’s going to get three yards just running hard and forward. And he also has that burst to go the whole distance.”

While four starters return on offense, the defense features five. One is defensive back Aiden Reilly, a junior who made allconference second team, after tying for third among Panthers with 69 tackles.

“He’s a really intelligent football player and can kind of be the quarterback from the back of the defense for us,” Knaus said. “He will also be used a lot this year on offense as receiver because of his athleticism.”

Junior Cole Booth will be the team’s quarterback, junior cornerback Cooper Gosse will also play wide receiver and seniors Cole Meyer (offensive tackle) and Michael Troke (center) are the anchors of the offensive line.

So what does Plymouth have to do in order to make the other coaches look good for picking the Panthers to win the East Central?

“Honestly, I’d say hard work, even as stupid as it sounds,” Nytes said. “If we put in the hard work and communicate, we’ll get there.”

(All games at 7 p.m.)
Aug. 17 – at New Berlin Eisenhower
Aug. 24 – vs. Sheboygan Falls
Aug. 31 – vs. Berlin
Sept. 7 – at Kettle Moraine Lutheran
Sept. 14 – vs. Kewaskum
Sept. 21 – at Ripon
Sept. 28 – vs. Winneconne
Oct. 5 – at Campbellsport
Oct. 12 – at Waupun

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