The kids suiting up in Plymouth’s orange-and-black football uniforms this year have only squared off against Luxemburg-Casco once in their high school careers.
That was in 2011, when the Spartans walked away with a 27-21 win in overtime to end the Panthers’ season in the first round of the playoffs. (The bracket that year technically favored Luxemburg-Casco, who came into the postseason seeded fourth to Plymouth’s No. 5.)
This year’s Panthers will get another chance against the Bay Conference team in a win-or-go-home game. Both teams face off in a Level 1 contest tonight in Division 3.
“This will be the third time we are playing them in the first round of the playoffs” in the last few years, said Plymouth coach Dan Knaus. The two teams also faced off in Level 1 game in 2009, with Plymouth that year romping to a 33-14 win.
“So we’re a little familiar with them,” Knaus said.
Unlike two seasons ago, this time the Panthers hold the upper hand. Plymouth is seeded second — Luxemburg-Casco is seventh — and boasts a well-balanced offensive juggernaut behind senior quarterback Kollin Neils and a bevy of strong runners, making the Panthers the decided favorite in tonight’s game. Plymouth finished 8-1 overall and 7-0 in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference, winning its third straight conference championship.
Neils completed 125 of 173 passes during the regular season for 1,816 yards and 21 touchdowns, registering a 131.2 passer rating. He added 365 yards and five TDs rushing.
Brad Trakel, meanwhile, led the Panthers’ run game with 510 yards — nearly 11 yards per carry — and seven TDs. Sam Staehling and Tyler Willeford combined for six rushing scores and nearly 600 yards.
The Spartans (5-4, 4-4 Bay) has boasted a capable passing offense this year, though the team favors the run. Quarterback Caleb Willems passed for 876 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season, while leading rusher Cole Kirchman has put up 935 yards and scored nine TDs.