LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Before the 2020 football season even started Rob Zimmerman knew this could be a very noteworthy year for No. 1 DeWitt and on Saturday, against No. 2 Muskegon, in a re-matchup of last year’s Division 3 state semifinal those feelings came to fruition.
The Panthers got the best of the Big Reds, 14-0, and the way in which they did it left Zimmerman impressed.
“You know we’ve been saying all along this is a special group of kids and you know, they have just had that refuse to lose mentality,” said Zimmerman. “I’m just so proud of the composure that they had. We made plays, like we’ve always done this season, when we needed to. Just an unbelievable group of kids.”
At halftime it was 0-0, but early in the third quarter DeWitt’s defense came up with a big-time stop. Conner Pochert forced Muskegon to fumble the ball and when his teammate Connor McKean recovered it the Panthers’ pounced on the opportunity.
“Oh, it was the biggest play of the game, that fumble recovery” said Zimmerman. “We told our guys, and they knew from watching film, that if we kept putting pressure on them they were going to cough it up. They had a tendency to have turnovers and that was a gigantic play.”
It resulted in a touchdown and the first score of the game for either team. With 8:01 to play, on the ensuing drive, Tyler Holtz handed it off to Andrew Debri and the Panthers’ senior running back took care of the rest. His 13 yard touchdown gave DeWitt a 7-0 lead.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Holtz decided he’d help the Panthers build upon their lead by rushing for a 14 yard touchdown of his own.
However, the real dagger came from Debri. His late interception sealed the win to send the Panthers to their first state title game appearance since 2013.
“Not only do we do this for ourselves, but we do this for everybody,” said Debri. “Every coach. Every person in this community. Every player that has played here. We still got one more game. We’re not satisfied and I really want to get this done for Coach.”
In his 21 seasons at DeWitt Zimmerman has yet to win the ultimate prize, but this noteworthy season just might see the Hall of Famer hoist his first-ever state championship trophy.
DeWitt will play River Rouge on Jan. 23 in the Division 3 final at 7:30 p.m. at Ford Field.