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'Nothing but excitement': DeWitt Panthers headed to Division 3 football state championship

Posted at 8:35 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 20:35:19-05

The energy was high at DeWitt High School on Friday, where football players say they've been waiting their whole lives to play in the state championship.

After a season transformed by COVID-19, the wait is finally over.

DeWitt will face off against River Rouge in Saturday night’s Division 3 state championship game.

Phil Wilson is a special education teacher at DeWitt High and an assistant coach for the Panthers football program. He’s proud of this team for all the time they’ve put in, even with a truncated season.

“They’ve been talking since they were in the fourth grade that they wanted to play in a state championship game by the time they were seniors. So, it’s nothing but excitement out of this group,” Wilson said.

The undefeated Panthers may have found a secret recipe to team chemistry. Some of their star players like Tyler Holtz and Tommy McIntosh have been playing together since they were as young as 9 years old.

“We’ve always had that chemistry on the field and being able to build on it for six or seven years, it’s just gotten better,” Holtz said.

McIntosh says their connection off the field made a huge difference when it came to game time this season.

“When we were growing up throwing the ball around in the backyard, I mean we’re kind of just having fun with it. Over time, you just kind of build a relationship and chemistry that translates onto the field, and I feel like that showed this year,” McIntosh said.

For Holtz and McIntosh, a young dynamic duo, it’s exciting to cap off their junior season with a trip to Ford Field. For seniors like Connor McKean, this is the best way they could imagined ending this roller coaster of a season.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity we have tomorrow to participate in one of the biggest games this program’s ever seen,” McKean said.

McKean’s dad, Jody, is ready to cheer on the Panthers both as a proud parent and as the principal of DeWitt High School. He said this game means a lot to the DeWitt community.

Head Coach Rob Zimmerman "has been to this level four or five times and gotten close. I know it’s every class’s dream to bring him home that state championship trophy and hopefully, these guys are special to me and it would mean a lot personally and professionally for them to bring it home for our community and for Coach Zimmerman,” McKean said.

You can catch all of the action from Saturday's game on the Fox Sports Go App.

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Lauren Shields

Lauren Shields

8:25 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Lauren Shields