The Panthers of DeWitt faces off against the defending division 3 state champion Panthers of River Rouge in this year’s division 3 state football championship. This is the conclusion of a season that almost never was. The season started three weeks late after restrictions kept teams from practicing and playing. After six weeks of play, during which many games were canceled due to COVID exposures, the playoffs began with all teams that wanted in being allowed to participate extending the playoffs to an extra week. But all of this came crashing to a halt after just three of the six scheduled weeks as COVID cases started to grow exponentially again. After an eight-week hiatus, almost as long as entire regular season, the playoffs began again. Some teams opted to not start back up due to player safety concerns. DeWitt’s first game against Stevensville Lakeshore was won by forfeit as Stevensville opted to not continue in the playoffs. This championship game will most likely determine the top team in the state according to many sportscasters. Both teams have very strong quarterbacks as well as very strong defenses.
DeWitt has the first possession of the game and goes three and out. Thanks to a good punt, River Rouge is forced to face a long field. They manage to get a first down, but not much more and end up punting back to DeWitt. DeWitt marches 43 yards down the field in four plays and score on a 15-yard pass from Tyler Holtz to Blake Beachnau for the first score of the game. A Brandon Soltis extra point is good to put DeWitt up 7-0 with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
River Rouge drives for 14 yards, but ends up turning the ball over on downs to DeWitt around mid-field. DeWitt then fails to get a first down and is forced to punt back to River Rouge. They have much better luck this time and drive 94 yards in 11 plays to score on a 52-yard pass from Mareyohn Hrabowski to Jalen Holly for their first score of the game. As they have done all season, they go for 2 and make it on a pass to Nicholas Marsh to put them in the lead 8-7 with 9:48 left in the first half.
The lead is short-lived and DeWitt scores again on their next drive on an 8-yard pass from Holtz to Andrew Debri. With the extra point by Brandon Soltis DeWitt is back up 14-8 with 7:27 left in the half. River Rouge goes three and out and punts back to DeWitt. Eight plays and 62 yards later DeWitt scores for the third time on a 35-yard pass from Holtz to Nicholas Flegler with 1:48 left in the half. With the Soltis extra point DeWitt takes a commanding 21-8 lead. River Rouge get in four plays without scoring before the end of the half. In the first half DeWitt has 216 yards to River Rouge’s 189 yards.
River Rouge has the first possession of the second half. They fail to score and punt back to DeWitt. From here on through the end of the game each team trades scores on each possession. DeWitt scores on a 25-yard pass to Tommy McIntosh (2-pt conv no good) to go up 27-8. River Rouge answers with a score on a 4-yard run by Mareyohn Hrabowski (2-pt conv no good) to bring the score to 27-14.
DeWitt then scores on a 37-yard run by Bryce Debri (2-pt conv no good) to extend their lead to 33-14. River Rouge answers this time on a 12-yard pass from Hrabowski to Nicholas Marsh (2-pt conv pass is good) to shorten DeWitt’s lead to 33-22.
The final score for DeWitt comes at 4:10 left in the game with a 2-yard run by Holtz. Brandon Soltis tacks on the extra point to go up 40-22. River Rouge drives 68 yards on 9 plays to score for their last time on a 3-yard run by Hrabowski with the 2 point conversion, also a run by Hrabowski, to cut the lead to 40-30. DeWitt manages to get a first down and then runs out the clock to win their first championship on their 6th visit to the finals.
After I graduated a little over 35 years ago I have followed DeWitt football and attended many of the games each year, sometime with a football head mask on, and even gone to watch them play in the finals. A few years ago now I started reporting on them for M-Live and then on MaxPreps and my own blog. This year was the strangest one ever with all the stops and starts, but I continued to follow and report. This championship is not only a reward well-earned for the team and staff, but for all of the fans who have followed them and cheered them on through heat and cold, wins and losses, highs and lows. Shortly I will be moving to Florida and will find it difficult to get to any more games, let alone report on them, but I will cherish all of the memories of DeWitt Football, especially this perfect year.