Panthers’ Austin Norton, who has seen more action since the injury of Robert Brent, escapes a Wolverines’ defender in a Sept. 8 Southern Lakes Conference clash at Waterford. Norton rushed for more than 100 yards to lead Wilmot in rushing (Rick Benavidez/The Report).

By Jason Arndt

In a Southern Lakes Conference clash between two of the top football teams, one would expect a battle until the end, especially when it is between Wilmot Union and Waterford Union high schools.

The battle showed last year, when the Panthers edged visiting Waterford on a game-winning field goal by Jeff Shoopman, but it was not the case in the Sept. 8 match held at Waterford.

Entering the contest, with both teams without their leading rushers, the Wolverines put the contest out of reach in the first 26 minutes when Tanner Keller exploded for three touchdowns to defeat Wilmot 24-13.

Keller, who finished with 17 carries for 187 yards, scored on runs of 3, 57 and 47 in the first three quarters.

According to Panthers’ coach Keiya Square, Waterford displayed timely play calling and a strong Wolverines’ offensive line.

“They did a good a job up front trapping our defensive line and getting to the linebackers,” Square said. “Two of his big runs came on stunts and they had the perfect play called.”

While Keller shouldered the load left by Ben Michalowski, out with a hamstring injury, the Panthers were without Robert Brent, who was injured in the Panthers’ win at Delavan-Darien a week earlier.

Junior Austin Norton, in place of Brent, had 16 carries for 116 yards.

“Austin is a physical runner with some speed,” Square said. “He had given us another back besides Brent that we can rely on to give the ball to and make plays for us.”

Brent, according to Square, plans to get his leg re-examined in the next few weeks to see if he is able to return.

Norton, however, was not enough to help the Panthers early offensive struggles against Waterford.

The Panthers, held scoreless in the first half, had a handful of three-and-out situations and were forced to punt.

“We are having too many mistakes at bad times whether it be penalty, turnover or just a busted assignment,” Square said. “We are putting ourselves in second and third and long too often.”

The first and second down complications forced senior quarterback A.J. Frisby to throw more often, including Friday, when he completed 15 of 28 passes for 141 yards and two interceptions.

In the opening half, where Waterford outscored the Panthers 17-0, the Wolverines scored on a 3-yard Keller run to take a 7-0 lead entering the second quarter.

After Patrick Goldammer kicked a 24-yard field goal, Keller extended the Waterford lead to 17-0, courtesy of a 57-yard touchdown run.

Keller, meanwhile, bolstered the Wolverines’ lead to open the third quarter, where he made a 47-yard score to give Waterford a 24-0 edge.

Wilmot answered two of the Wolverines’ touchdowns, starting with a 2-yard Frisby run in the third quarter and a Frisby to Kevin Brenner 5-yard connection in the fourth.

Instrumental in helping the Panthers rally was junior Cullen Ketterhagen, who finished with seven receptions for a game-high 66 yards.

Wilmot, which dropped to 1-3 (1-1 SLC), hosts Elkhorn Sept. 15.

Square plans to work on details in practice this week.

“We will continue to work on the little things that we need to improve and keep working to get better,” he said.

Waterford jumped to 2-2 (1-1 SLC).


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