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KNOXVILLE — An odd season with the COVID-19 pandemic erasing the spring sports season in 2020 cut out some more potential impressive years for Knoxville. The Panthers had historical seasons on several occasions and made a pair of individual trips to state. Here is a look at how the season stacked up for Knoxville.

Football (6-3)

Knoxville football made some history this season on a couple of occasions. The Panthers started out hot, winning their first four games on their way to a six-win season, their most since 2005.

In their regular season finale win against Newton, Carter Bailey broke the school record for rushing yards in a game with 321 on 27 attempts. Keegan Cox also broke a Panther record, picking off his eighth pass of the year in the contest.

Knoxville had two defensive players selected to IPSWA’s all-state teams. Junior safety Keegan Cox received second team honors while senior linebacker Ben Olson was chosen to the third team.

As previously mentioned, Cox broke a school record this season with eight interceptions to finish second in Class 3A along with 13.5 tackles. He also showed his prowess on special teams and offense. He served as the team’s kick and punt returner, rushed for 318 yards and three touchdowns and caught seven passes for 118 yards and one touchdown.

Olson was a tackling machine during his high school career and that didn’t change in his senior season. In 2019, he would rack up 75.5 tackles including 14 tackles for loss and five sacks. Offensively, he had 16 carries for 41 yards and one touchdown while also catching four passes for 78 yards.

Knoxville finished with a 6-3 record but a 2-3 district record and the second easiest schedule in Class 3A would keep them out of the postseason.

Volleyball (25-8)

What a season it was for the Knoxville volleyball team. The Panthers started the season by winning 16 matches in a row and 21 of their first 22.

They also finished a perfect 6-0 in conference play to earn their third straight South Central Conference title. Knoxville claimed the title by posting a game record of 18 wins against only four losses in league play.

The Panthers had three girls selected to the all-conference first team. Katie Keitges was a unanimous selection while Marley McKay and Maggie Wilkins both joined her on the first team.

Keitges dominated with 352 kills and a 30.5% kill efficiency on the season. She also defended well with 315 digs (second on the team) and 14 blocks to go along with 37 aces (second on the team).

McKay did the setting for Keitges and did an excellent job at it, finishing with 660 assists in her junior season to go with 32 kills, 22 blocks, 184 digs and 30 aces.

Wilkins was a defensive force for Knoxville, leading the team with 470 digs while chipping in 15 kills, 11 assists and 27 aces.

After a first round bye, Knoxville would fall 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-21) to Carlisle in the regional semifinals.

Boys Cross Country

The boys cross country runners wrapped a strong season with an eighth place finish at the state qualifier as a team with 216 points.

Season long leader Jordan Bacon, who was vying for a state meet bid with a top 15 finish, was the leader of the pack for KHS in 29th place at 18:27 followed by Seth Walraven 34th at 18:33.

The rest of the KHS scoring showed Trent Walraven 48th at 19:10 and Max Purvis on his heels in 49th at 19:11.

Freshman Kaden McGill rounded out the scoring in 56th at 19:32.

Girls Cross Country

The girls cross country team was led by freshman standout Norah Pearson all season.

The team would finish eighth at the state qualifier meet with 214 points but Pearson would punch her ticket to state with a second place finish and a time of 19:48.

In addition to Pearson, the rest of the KHS lineup for the day consisted of Abbey Jackson in 50th place with a time of 24:26, Charlie Ver Meer was 51st at 24:26. Tanna Davis was 54th at 24:51 and Olivia Maasdam 57th at 25:07.

Pearson then competed at the state meet in Fort Dodge where she would run to a fifth place finish with a time of 18:46, good enough to earn all-state honors.

Pearson broke the old Panther 5K mark earlier that season with a time of 18:56, she ran 10 seconds faster at the state meet to break her own record.

Boys Basketball (12-10)

It was a tail of two seasons inside of one for the Knoxville boys basketball team. The Panthers started out hot, winning 11 of their first 14 games before hitting a rough patch late and losing seven of their last eight.

Kieren Nichols earned a spot on the Class 3A first team all-state squad after a fantastic junior campaign.

Nichols crossed the 1,000 point mark for his career while being one of the top scorers in the state, averaging 25.9 points, 4.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 47.3% from the field and 34.1% from three.

Nichols was also a first team all-conference selection while teammate Spencer Hixson was chosen to the second team squad.

Hixson was Knoxville’s second go-to scorer at 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 38.5% from the floor and 3.24% from deep.

Knoxville would fall 77-54 to Grinnell in the substate quarterfinals.

Girls Basketball (20-3)

Knoxville put together one of their best seasons in a decade, winning 20 games for the first time since 2009-10 where they went 23-2.

The Panthers ran through conference play, finishing a perfect 12-0 in SCC play to take the conference title for a third year in a row.

Knoxville was led by their two outstanding guards in Katie Keitges and Maggie Wilkins.

Keitges, who is heading to the University of Nebraska-Omaha to continue her basketball career, was a first team all-state selection after setting three new individual records at Knoxville. The records were most points in a season (534), in a career (1,752) and career scoring average (20.1 per game). During her senior campaign, Keitges averaged 23.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.6 steals per game while shooting 47% from the field and 32.1% from three.

Wilkins earned third team all-state honors as a junior while surpassing the 1,000 point scoring mark this season. She was equally impressive on both ends of the floor, averaging 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3 steals per game while shooting an impressive 53.1% from the floor and 40.2% from beyond the arc.

Knoxville would defeat Hoover in the first round of regionals before falling 76-68 to Gilbert in the regional semifinals.


A second place finish at the conference and six boys at districts made for a solid season from the Knoxville grapplers.

The SCC meet was held early in the year this season and the Panthers would show well, finishing second behind EBF with a score of 165.

Knoxville had a pair of SCC champions in Luke Spaur (120) and Gavin Montalvo (170) while Marco Alejo (113), Nash Linsley (160) and Wyatt Darnell (182) were conference runner-ups.

The Panthers got six boys through regionals to districts and were poised for a solid showing. Unfortunately, all six would lose their semifinal matchups but four would bounce back with a win in the third place match.

Alejo and Linsley would earn wrestlebacks but Alejo would be pinned and Linsley would drop a 16-8 major decision to fall short of a state birth.

Boys Bowling (16-13)

It was a solid season for the Knoxville boys bowlers, finishing fifth at the conference meet and second at substate while sending one individual to state.

At the Two Rivers Conference Meet, Knoxville’s 2,692 pins was good for fifth place, just four pins behind Norwalk for fourth place.

Knoxville senior Blaise Hubler, who earned second team all-conference honors, had the fifth best series of the tournament with a 406. His high game for the day was 225. Freshman Donovan Binns had the 10th best series in the tournament with a 393. His high game was a 246.

Knoxville would finish 27 pins behind Centerville at substate to finish just short of a state birth with a second place finish. That didn’t stop Keagan McCarty from having a big day as he would secure an individual spot at state by rolling the high series at the meet by 61 pins.

McCarty would compete at the state meet in Waterloo, tying for 34th individually with a series of 371.

Girls Bowling (16-12)

The girls bowling team enjoyed a successful campaign that saw them take fifth at the conference meet and second at substate.

The Panthers took fifth at the Two Rivers Conference Meet with 2,004 pins, just two pins behind Sigourney and 21 pins behind Bondurant-Farrar.

Lily Cieslak was a first team all-conference selection while Hayden Wadle was chosen to the second team squad. Cieslak and Wadle had the sixth and seventh best series of the tournament with 310 and 307 scores respectively. Cieslak had a high game of 184.

Knoxville would later take second at substate, finishing 42 pins behind Clarke for a team state birth.

Boys Track and Field

Season cancelled due to COVID-19.

Girls Track and Field

Season cancelled due to COVID-19.

Boys Tennis

Season cancelled due to COVID-19.

Girls Tennis

Season cancelled due to COVID-19.

Boys Golf

Season cancelled due to COVID-19.

Girls Golf

Season cancelled due to COVID-19.

Boys Soccer

Season cancelled due to COVID-19.

Girls Soccer

Season cancelled due to COVID-19.

Baseball (9-10)

Knoxville went through the ups and downs of a shortened season to finish just below .500 and finish conference play with a 3-3 record.

Ben Olson and Mike Hudson would both earn selections to the all-conference first team for the Panthers.

Olson had the big bat for Knoxville while holding down third base defensively. He would finish with a .302 batting average with one home run and a team-high five doubles, one triple and 21 RBIs.

Hudson had an excellent year at the plate and on the mound for the Panthers. He proved to be a very tough out in the batters box, hitting .525 with a .580 on-base percentage. He would also finish with five doubles, one triple and 20 RBIs. On the rubber, Hudson was 2-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings of work.

Knoxville unfortunately saw their season end early due to a positive COVID-19 test among the team the day of their first game of districts.

Softball (10-5)

It was an exciting year of softball for the Knoxville Panthers filled with a couple of walk-offs and comebacks.

Knoxville won their first four games before almost knocking off the eventual state champions of Albia before ultimately losing in extra innings to the Lady Dees. That started a brief three-game skid for the Panthers before they would win six of their next seven games.

Maddy Findley would be a first team all-conference selection while Ashlyn Finarty was chosen to the all-conference second team.

Findley had a big year at the plate to finish off her senior season. She would finish with a .464 batting average with five doubles and a team-high four home runs and 12 RBIs.

Finarty had a real nice season at the plate and on the rubber for Knoxville. She batted .423 with five doubles, one home run and nine RBIs. In the circle, she owned a 5-4 record with a 2.96 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 71 innings pitched.

Knoxville would walk it off against Pella in a 1-0 battle in the regional quarterfinals. The Panthers would then fall 11-2 against a good Carlisle squad in the regional semifinals.

Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.

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