Rob Zimmerman had butterflies in his stomach. He already had 34 consecutive CAAC Red wins and 11 straight league championships heading into Friday night's game, but the DeWitt head coach was nervous, despite being in charge of the program since 1999.
"I was every bit as nervous for this game tonight as I was way back when," Zimmerman said, following his team's 28-0 shakedown of Haslett. "When you play a rival school and you've got a lot at stake, if you don't have butterflies still, then I don't think you should probably be coaching."
And with that win, the game was just another accolade for Zimmerman and his team--requiring a revision of the above numbers. The DeWitt Panthers now have 12 straight league titles and 35 consecutive CAAC Red wins.
Against the Vikings, DeWitt paced itself offensively, scoring two touchdowns in both halves. Yet, they still squandered opportunities deep and were plagued by penalties, leaving room for improvement.
The defense, on the other hand, left no room for error, securing its second shutout of the season. Quarterback Blake Gatfield and the offense took favorable field position and turned it into points, wrapping up the game with 17.7 seconds remaining on a touchdown pass to Luke Hyde, the big-bodied but soft-handed tight end.
"The key is we really have improved each week," Zimmerman said, adding that rebounding from an 0-1 start with a 14-7 victory over Grand Ledge had propelled the Panthers forward. "We have to cut down on the penalties. We've had way too many the last two weeks, but with the exception of that, I think we played very well against both St. Johns and Haslett, tonight. We're getting better."
Zimmerman said the team still wasn't where it needed to be for the playoffs.
But it did secure one final CAAC Red crown. Next year, realignment will send the Panthers to the CAAC Blue.
For now, though, they'll just bask in the present.
"We just wanted to win the league title tonight," Zimmerman said. "Each group of kids is different, and that's the most important thing for them--to win the league title so that they can say they won it also."