DeWitt football and head coach Rob Zimmerman was looking to join Ithaca in the winners circle in a Division III state final against Zeeland West.
It was a rough night for the Panthers, who had three turnovers, including two interceptions thrown by Jake Johnson. And he threw just one all season prior. Zeeland West jumped out to a 22-0 lead.
But it was no quit in DeWitt.
In the second quarter, Johnson connected with Justice Shankel to make it 22-7.
Then, after a touchdown by the dux, Chris Ruby made a whole lotta somethin' outta nothin'. He took the ball 56 yards to the house to make it 28-13.
Later, DeWitt got a gift when Zeeland West fumbled the snap. The Panthers pounced on it, and then Johnson went back to work on offense. He took advantage over the top to Josh Borta, and then it was a ballgame, with a 28-20 lead in the third. It was an entertaining game from start to finish with all kinds of momentum shifts.
Less than three minutes after DeWitt cut the lead to eight, Zeeland West struck mad. Some moves by quarterback Casey Brinks gave Zeeland a 25-yard scamper, and the Dux increased their lead to 34-20.
To the fourth quarter, there was less than five to play and the Panthers needed to move quick. Johnson rolled and found a wide open Borta to make it 34-27. DeWitt needed the ball one more time.
Less than a minute left, Zeeland West punted and the Panthers got another shot. But DeWitt's Ben Heinritz nearly blocked the kick, and ran into the kicker for a penalty. Zeeland West kept the ball and ran the clock out on DeWitt.
But the Panthers never would have never made it this far without Heinritz. They finished as the State runner-up after a 34-27 decision.
The Division III state championship game was held at Ford Field in Detroit.