Week 1 of the 2020 MHSAA football playoffs and the Panthers of DeWitt face off against the Mounties of Jackson Northwest. DeWitt comes into the game 6-0 while Jackson NW comes in 0-5. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 290-50 allowing only 9 points in the last 4 games while Jackson has been outscored 109-262 giving up 112 points in the last 2 games alone. Despite the wide-spread records and scoring history no game can be overlooked, especially in the playoffs where one mis-step can end your season quickly.
DeWitt had the first possession and after a long run on the first play is negated by a penalty they score 4 plays later on a 9-yard run by Andrew Debri. Nicholas Flegler tacked on the extra point to go up 7-0 very quickly. The Mounties go three and out to set the pace for how the game would go. After the punt DeWitt starts their drive on the Northwest 37-yard line. On a fourth and 5 from the Northwest 32-yard line DeWitt scores for the second time on a pass from Tyler Holtz to Tommy McIntosh. With the extra point good again DeWitt goes up 14-0 now only four minutes into the game.
After gaining only 2 net yards in 2 plays for the Mounties, their pass is picked off and returned 25 yards by Andrew Debti for yet another DeWitt touchdown with just over six minutes left in the first quarter. Not even halfway through the first quarter and DeWitt is already up 21-0. This does not look good for the Mounties first ever playoff appearance.
Northwest’s next drive is much longer, moving the ball from their own 22-yard line all the way to midfield. After a time out by the Mounties with 13.6 seconds left, they try one last play in the first quarter only to be picked off again, by Tommy McIntosh this time, and run back 54 yards for another Panther pick-6 touchdown as the clock expires for the first quarter with DeWitt up 28-0.
After managing only 5 yards on the first 3 plays, Northwest is forced to punt on a fourth and 5. DeWitt starts their drive on their own 36-yard line. On the first play Tyler Holtz connects with Andrew Debri for a 64-yard touchdown three minutes into the second quarter to go up 35-0. If it was in the second half they would have a running clock, but there is still about nine minutes left to go before halftime.
Northwest once again fails to get a first down and is forced to punt. This time the punt is returned by Andrew Debri for the sixth touchdown of the game putting the Panthers up by 42-0. The Mounties bad luck continues and they fumble the ball on the kickoff return and DeWitt recovers on the Mounties 31-yard line. Right away Tyler Holtz connects with Luke Bresser for DeWitt’s seventh touchdown of the night. Unfortunately, the snap is bad on the extra point attempt so the holder falls on the ball and the attempt is no good. DeWitt now holds a commanding lead of 48-0 with still almost 7 minutes left I the first half.
Northwest once again goes three and out before punting back to DeWitt. The Panthers chew up yardage on the ground using up the remainder of the clock in the first half making it to the Northwest 26-yard line before the half ends.
Thankfully for the Mounties there is a running clock in the second half which makes the half go much quicker. DeWitt has in backup quarterback Bryce Kurncz for the whole second half. The Mounties first possession goes like many of theirs in the first half with a three and out. DeWitt’s first possession though goes differently than their earlier ones as they drive 33 yards before fumbling on a third and one from the Northwest 39-yard line to be recovered by Northwest. Unfortunately, Northwest’s good luck is short-lived as they turn the ball back over to DeWitt on a failed fourth down conversion. DeWitt does much better driving 44 yards, but turning the ball over on downs themselves on a failed fourth down conversion on the Northwest 3-yard line.
The failed drives continue as the Mounties lose the ball on a fumble only two plays into their next drive. Two plays later DeWitt scores for the last time on 5-yard run by Bryce Kurncz for the last touchdown of the game. Brandon Soltis tacks on the last extra point of the game to push DeWitt to a 55-0 lead with just one minute left in the game. Northwest only has time for one play, which is only good for 4 yards, before time runs out.
This game was all DeWitt with the Panthers gaining 325 yards in the game, 208 of it in the air, compared to Northwest’s 32 yards. DeWitt averaged 18.9 yards per pass and 4.9 run while Northwest only averaged 0.9 yards per play. The Mounties only made 2 first downs in the whole game, both coming on third down conversions. There are relatively few penalties in the game with just 2 against the Panthers for 10 yards and 2 against the Mounties for 30 yards. The Mounties had 4 turnovers in the game, 2 lost fumbles and 2 interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. All in all, a very dominant performance by the Panthers.
The Panthers, now 7-0, move on to the second round to face Lansing Waverly next week at Memorial Stadium in DeWitt. This will be a re-match of the week 5 meeting between the two team at Waverly which the Panthers won 47-0. The Warriors beat the St. Johns Redwings 39-7 to advance.