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1997 Panthers Had Raw Toughness, Devotion
October 3, 2007 - Knightstown’s 1997 Panther football team wasn’t the first to be ranked in the top 10 in the state, but it was the first to elevate the program to a state-level status.
Coach Don Willard and his Panthers won the school’s first-ever regional title in football, and went on to win the semistate as well. The team played in the RCA Dome for a state championship, losing in the final game to Pioneer.
That 1997 edition of Panther football will be recognized during halftime of Friday’s night’s football game against Lapel.
The 1997 Panthers were unlike any team in the history of the program. Defensively, the team was a force. The Panthers outscored their opposition 309-26 during the regular season, and then gave up just eight, 10 and 13 points in three sectional games. They shut out Clinton Central in the regional and won the semistate 14-7, allowing just 64 points in the first 14 games they played.
The team was the most dominating defensively in the history of Panther football, and thrilled the community with their trek to Indianapolis to play for the state championship.
Most successful high school coaches will be quick to point out that their best teams were closely-knit groups. The 1997 Panthers were no exception, and had an added incentive.
Shortly before the football season started, their classmate and friend, Lisa Anderson, drowned while swimming in a pool in Knightstown.
Her tragic death hit the team hard, and the players devoted the season to their fallen classmate. After every game, the team would look to the Heavens to remind her that she was in their thoughts and that victory was for her.
The team became very close and reacted to the successes and failures of one another.
After rolling through the regular season unbeaten and virtually untested, the Panthers embarked on the tournament trail that would take them farther than any Knightstown athletic team in history.
One particular play likely defined the team more than anything else. In the second round of the sectional at South Decatur, the Panthers were in a 7-7 deadlock late in the second quarter. The host Cougars were driving for a potential score, and threw a pass into the end zone.
The tight end was wide open and the pass was on target. Defensive back Craig Richey came racing across the field and planted a brutal hit on the receiver a split-second after the ball arrived, nearly decapitating the player.
The ball fell harmlessly to the ground, Panther fans roared, and South Decatur settled for a field goal and a 10-7 halftime lead. The victim of Richey’s hit was carried off of the field.
The message had been sent. That vicious hit set the stage for the rest of the game, and the rest of the tournament trail. The Panthers scored 21 unanswered points to beat the Cougars 28-10, and then swept their way through the rest of the playoff games allowing just 26 points over the next three contests.
Richey’s hit epitomized those 1997 Panthers. They were tough. They played through injuries. They supported one another, and they played the game with purpose. Take a look back at that memorable season in 1997.
The Bulldogs were held to minus-14 yards of total offense, including 38 rushes for a minus-29 yards. Ryan Johnson ran for 90 yards and two scores, and Drew Crawford had 122 yards and one touchdown. Record 1-0, state ranking: #4.
The Panthers won at seventh-ranked Hagerstown, handing the Tigers what would be their only loss of the season. The defense held Nate Logston (220 rushing yards vs. Lawrenceburg the week before) to 27 yards of total offense. In two games the KHS rushing defense had allowed a total of nine yards. Record 2-0, ranking #4.
Knightstown rushed for 489 yards and held the Warriors to two field goals of 41 and 49 yards. Eric Scheumann threw two touchdown passes to Ryan Plank and KHS had 584 yards of offense. Record 3-0, ranking #3.
Johnson had three touchdowns and Crawford added two, while Scheumann connected with Craig Richey for three passes. The Chargers crossed the 50-yard line one time. Record 4-0, ranking #3.
After a 14-0 halftime lead, the Panthers blew out ninth-ranked Frankton in a game that was completed Saturday after a severe storm blew through at halftime. Crawford had three touchdowns and Richey had a 51-yard touchdown reception from Scheumann. Record 5-0, ranking #3.
Ian Hayes scored two touchdowns, Scheumann passed and ran for scores, and Landon Colip had a 39-yard interception return for another score. KHS had 500 yards of offense and gave up just 81. Record 6-0, ranking #2.
After a 7-7 tie early, Knightstown dominated the rest of the way. Tri was held to 43 rushing yards while the Panthers ran for 293. Scheumann threw two touchdown passes to Richey. Scheumann was six-for-six for 85 yards and two scores. Record 7-0, ranking #2.
Lapel had won five straight games and was unbeaten in conference play in the game for the WRAC championship. The Panthers had 533 rushing yards, over 600 yards of offense, and never faced a fourth down situation. Knightstown led 35-0 with eight minutes still to play in the second quarter. The Bulldogs had 79 yards of total offense, and Joe Kwisz had 18 solo tackles. Record 8-0, ranking #2.
Drew Crawford threw a halfback option for one touchdown and ran for two more. The Royals were held to 72 yards of offense and was Knightstown’s fifth shutout victim of the season. Record 9-0, ranking #2. An injured Johnson would play sparingly in the next few games. Jim Carmichael had 21 solo tackles in an unbelievable game.
The 140-mile bus ride to West Washington was a lot more fun on the way back. For the second time in three years the Panthers knocked the Senators out of the state tournament. Crawford had three touchdowns and Knightstown over 300 yards of offense in the blowout win. Record 10-0.
The Cougars were on a five-game winning streak and coming off a 50-14 sectional round one win. They led KHS 10-7 in the second quarter and were driving for a score when Richey planted a hit on a Cougar receiver in the end zone that was brutal and epitomized this team. The receiver didn’t return to the game, and the momentum did – for Knightstown. Soth Decatur didn’t get another first down, and the Panthers scored 21 unanswered second half points and advanced to the sectional final. Record 11-0.
The dramatic goal-line stand in the game’s final seconds preserved the school’s second sectional title in history. KHS dominated the game with 255 yards rushing, holding Park Tudor to 98 yards on the ground. Park Pudor scored with 25 seconds remaining and went for the two point conversion, which failed. Record 12-0.
Panther fans claimed seats two days before the Regional championship and an all-time record crowd attended the defensive struggle. The Panthers scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Scheumann to Richey. Rain fell throughout the game and the poor field conditions caused both teams to struggle offensively. Carmichael and Ben Brooks both had 14 solo tackles. Record 13-0.
After a 10-inch snowfall added to several inches already on the ground, the Panther field resembled the legendary frozen tundra at Green Bay. Five Indianapolis television stations were at Panther Stadium to film highlights. Snow drifts were piled all the way around the field, and an estimated 6,000 fans braved to horrible weather to witness history. The Panthers broke a 7-7 tie on a touchdown run by Johnson with 50 seconds to play in the game. The winning drive included 16 plays and ate up more than seven minutes. The offensive line of Kwisz, Nic Rausch, Kyle Rhodes, Jason Chapman, Travis Rivers and Josh Plank were flawless. The win marked the first ever semistate championship at KHS in any sport. Record 14-0.
The Panthers were still in the game in the second quarter, trailing 28-14 and driving, but couldn’t put the ball in the end zone and lost in the state championship to Pioneer. The team finished the season with a 14-1 record.
For the season, both Johnson and Crawford ran for over 1,000 yards on the ground. Plank finished the season converting on an amazing 52-of-58 point-after-touchdown attempts.
No. Name Grade
# 7 - Randy Gorman 10
# 8 - Eric Scheumann 12
#11 - Adam Bonewits 10
#15 - Ian Hayes 11
#16 - Craig Richey 12
#17 - Geritt Giullaume 10
#20 - Brent Robertson 9
#24 - Clint Butcher 10
#29 - Landon Colip 11
#30 - Josh Trautmann 10
#32 - Drew Crawford 12
#40 - Josh Gross 10
#42 - Ben Brooks 12
#43 - Ryan Johnson 12
#50 - Scott Byrnes 10
#51 - Kyle Rhodes 12
#52 - Joe Kwisz 12
#55 - Mike Nickle 9
#56 - David Martin 9
#59 - Travis Mills 10
#60 - Josh Craig 9
#61 - Chris Tapp 10
#62 - Brennan Todd 9
#63 - Justin Chapman 10
#64 - Andy Hamilton 10
#65 - Nic Rausch 11
#66 - Jason Chapman 12
#67 - Travis Spence 10
#68 - Doug Isaacs 10
#70 - John Carmack 11
#71 - Bill Conley 10
#73 - Ron Woodridge 11
#75 - Jim Carmichael 12
#76 - Travis Rivers 12
#77 - Robert Crowe 12
#78 - Matt Stockton 10
#81 - Josh Plank 12
#83 - Jay Hogan 10
Head Coach: Don Willard
Assistants: Mike Byrnes, Bob Guillaume, Scott Stanley.
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