It's week three of the Michigan High School Football playoffs and we are up to the District Finals. Tonight brings a matchup that many have looked foward to and anticipated since the brackets were released weeks ago. In District 2 of Region 2 for Division 3 we have the #2 seeded Mason Bulldogs travelling to Memorial Stadium in DeWitt to take on the #1 seeded DeWitt Panthers. Both teams come into the game 8-0 on the season with Mason outscoring their opponents 307-87 and DeWitt outscoring their opponents 397-50. Both teams with strong defenses only giving up a few points a game and offenses that score 35-50 points in most games. The only difference is the strength of schedules with DeWitt facing slightly stronger opponents throughout the season which gave them the edge in playoff points and therefor the home field advantage. The last time DeWitt played Mason was in 2017 when DeWitt was part of the CAAC Red and DeWitt beat Mason 49-0 in the third week of the season, but the last time they met in post season play was in 2014 when Mason knocked DeWitt out of the playoffs at the District Finals 30-14. Tonight’s game looks to be one of the better games of the week in the high school playoffs.
DeWitt wins the coin toss and defers to the second half. On Mason’s first possession they get deep into DeWitt territory and have a first and goal on the DeWitt 10, but after 3 plays with no gain they have to settle for a field goal attempt which ends up being no good. After that both teams struggle to even get a first down. It is looking like this may be a defensive battle with a low score. On Mason’s third possession they fumble the ball on the first play and DeWitt recovers. On a quick drive including a 32-yard run by Nicholas Flegler, DeWitt scores for the first time on a 1-yard run by Andrew Debri with four minutes left in the first quarter. The PAT kick is wide right so DeWitt is now up 6-0.
On Mason’s next possession they manage to get a first down and get out to their own 32-yard line before being intercepted on a third and seven by Luke Bresser who returns it 62 yards for a touchdown. The PAT kick was wide right again to leave the score 12-0. Mason’s next drive goes all the way from their own 29 to the DeWitt 14 before being backed up on a 15-yard personal foul back to the DeWitt 29, They end up turning the ball over on downs after failing to get the needed first down on a fourth and 22 from the DeWitt 29.
DeWitt marches down the field in five plays scoring on a 47-yard run by Connor McKean. The two-point conversion is good to go up 20-0. Mason struggles on the next possession including an illegal procedure penalty to be forced to punt after just four plays. Despite an illegal forward pass penalty DeWitt manages to score again in just four plays on a 10-yard run by Connor McKean. Andrew Debri adds on a rushing 2-point conversion to put DeWitt up 28-0. Mason drives from their own 27 all the way to the DeWitt 45 before stalling out and being forced to punt again. DeWitt has time for just three plays before the half ends. As the lead is only 28 DeWitt will not have a running clock to start the second half, one of the few times this season that has happened.
With the first possession of the second half DeWitt proves that the first half wasn’t a fluke. In just two plays DeWitt scores on a 56-yard pass play from Tyler Holtz to Luke Bresser. The extra point is good this time to put DeWitt up 35-0. Now there will be a running clock only one minute into the second half. Mason gets a first down on a 34-yard run, but then fails to get another and punts again. DeWitt doesn’t fare much better and punts without getting a first down. Mason starts on their own 45, and gains a first down, but stall out again on the DeWitt 33 and turns it over on downs for the first play in the fourth quarter after failing to convert on a fourth and four.
DeWitt starts off on their own 30-yard line and drives quickly down the field on 7 plays to score one last time on a third and nine with a 17-yard pass from Tyler Holtz to Luke Bresser. The snap on the extra point is bad, but the try is salvaged with a pass to Connor McKean for a two-point conversion to put DeWitt up 43-0. Mason drives down the field well, but, with a running clock, time runs out before they get all the way down to pay dirt.
Even though Mason managed to gain 293 yards on the evening, 246 of it on the ground, two turnovers and the strength of DeWitt’s defense proved to be too much for the Bulldogs to overcome. Mason only converted on 2 of 12 third downs. DeWitt’s passing game propelled them to victory with 158 yards passing averaging 17.6 yards per pass. Add to that 169 yards on the ground averaging 7 yards per carry and it was just too much for Mason’s defense to handle.
Mason ends the season 8-1 while DeWitt goes on to face the winner of the Saturday Night showdown between the region 2 district 1 number one seed St. Joseph (7-1) versus number two seed Stevensville Lakeshore (6-2). Next week's game will be held in DeWitt as DeWitt has higher playoff points than both of the other teams. If Stevensville Lakeshore wins it will be a rematch of the week 6 matchup between the Panthers and the Lancers, which the Panthers won 43-6.