DeWITT – Rob Zimmerman and the DeWitt Panthers had Sept. 18 circled on their calendar for quite some time.
Last year, DeWitt lost its only game of the season to CAAC Red rival Mason — and it came in win-or-go-home fashion.
And on Friday night, though the stakes weren’t as high, the Panthers were able to get some retribution as they defeated the Bulldogs 31-14.
“Our conference is very, very competitive. That’s a big win for us,” said Zimmerman, whose team has won 35 consecutive league games. “We know we might see (Mason) again if we get to the playoffs, but it was a good win for us.
“I don’t know if revenge is the right term, but we certainly feel happy getting the W.”
Zimmerman can thank his defense for not only holding the Bulldogs (2-2, 0-2) to 14 points, but for making critical plays in the second half.
After trailing 14-7 at halftime, Mason tied the contest on the opening drive of the third quarter when quarterback Jarrett VanHavel threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brad Wilton. The Panthers (4-0, 2-0) fumbled the ensuing kick-off and Mason recovered in enemy territory with an opportunity to take its first lead of the game.
But on first-and-10, VanHavel was intercepted by DeWitt’s JD Ross in the end zone. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs on the next possession. Mason, with the ball at DeWitt’s 46, had another shot to take the lead, but on fourth-and-4, the Panthers’ defensive line got to VanHavel and forced a fumble. DeWitt recovered and that eventually led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Will Nagel to Evan Conn.
The Panthers never looked back from there.
“Coach told us we needed to (get to) the ball,” said Ross, who also had a 69-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to put the Panthers up 7-0. “We had to flow to the ball, and that’s what we definitely did.”
After the throw to Conn, DeWitt scored on its next drive when running back Zane Froehlich ran the ball in from 15 yards out — his second touchdown of the game.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot, made some bad plays,” said VanHavel. “I threw a couple bad balls, a couple mistakes during play calls. But overall, I thought we played well.”
Hunter Holbrook capped off an eight-play, 96-yard drive for Mason with a 5-yard touchdown run right before halftime.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.