ST. JOHNS – Another year, another blemish-free conference season for the DeWitt Panthers.
DeWitt, which has won at least a share of its conference title for the last 11 years, concluded yet another undefeated CAAC Red season Friday night by defeating St. Johns, 27-7, at St. Johns High School. The Division 3 No. 7-ranked Panthers won the league outright with the victory.
DeWitt’s conference winning streak – split between the disbanded CAAC Gold and the CAAC Red – extended to 43 games, dating back to 2008.
“It’s a great compliment to our community, to our youth program, and, obviously, to our kids who have played for us,” DeWitt coach Rob Zimmerman said. “I’ve got a great (coaching) staff, and to accomplish what we have is pretty special.”
The Panthers (6-1, 5-0 CAAC Red), who qualified for the playoffs for the 11th straight year, struck first Friday night when junior tailback Nicklas Krause capped an eight-play, 66-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give his team a 6-0 lead. Senior JD Ross helped put DeWitt in scoring position with a 9-yard reception and a 16-yard run.
The Redwings (3-4, 3-2 CAAC Red) didn’t take long to retaliate. After turning the ball over on downs deep in the Panthers’ territory, St. Johns started its third offensive possession on the Panthers’ 21. The Redwings were able to take a 7-6 lead into halftime after senior Jack Bouck scored on a 7-yard touchdown run.
St. Johns, which had over eight minutes of possession in the first quarter, forced DeWitt quarterback Will Nagel into three first-half interceptions – two of which were deep in Panther territory – but only walked away with seven points. Cole Weber was the recipient of two Nagel interceptions.
“We should have capitalized more,” Bouck said. “Everyone was too fired up, and we needed to keep our cool.
“They capitalized off of our mistakes. If we could have done the same, I think it would have been a totally different game out there.”
The Panthers took the lead once and for all to start the third quarter when Ross’ 3-yard touchdown run gave his team a 12-7 lead. Sophomore David Locher, who had a game-high 154 rushing yards, followed that score with a 48-yard touchdown run on DeWitt’s ensuing possession.
“We just wanted to the run the ball and go back to what we do,” Locher said of his team’s second-half adjustments. “We weren’t pressured to get the yards, we weren’t pinned deep, so we (had room) to run the ball.”
Offensively, the Redwings failed to get the ball into the Panthers’ side of the field in the second half. They were held to just 42 yards of total offense in the final 24 minutes.
DeWitt ended the night with a 5-yard touchdown run from Ross, who finished with 61 rushing yards.
St. Johns tailback Kade Heibeck had a team-high 67 rushing yards.
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.