By: Nate Schneider
Few prep football programs have been a model of consistency to the level of DeWitt
Few prep football programs have been a model of consistency to the standard of DeWitt.
Year in and year out, you can almost expect the Panthers to reach the double-digit number in victories. Since 2001, there have been only four years where they failed to win at least 10 games and in two of those were nine-win seasons.
DeWitt is coached by Rob Zimmerman, a 2016 Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee who has been at the helm of the program since 1999.
He credits many factors as to why the Panthers are among the top Division 4 teams in almost any given year.
“There are a lot of reasons,” Zimmerman said. “It starts off with our youth program. We’ve had tremendous coaching, organization and our participation of the kids at the youth level. It’s been that way for a very long time, even before I was there obviously. We have tremendous support within the community, both financially and also with crowds at DeWitt on Friday nights. And I’ve had so much consistency with my coaching staff and that is rare. Guys have been with me a long time and that helps a great deal, not only at the varsity level but also at freshman and JV.”
To continue his answer, he certainly did not exclude all the players who have come through the DeWitt system.
“And finally, we’ve had great kids,” Zimmerman remarked. “They are kids who are willing to work. We ask a lot of them and they are willing to put the time in year after year. It’s carried on with each new class. There is obviously a great expectation within our program and it’s gotten passed on from one group of seniors to the next.”
DeWitt finished last year 10-2, including 5-0 in the CAAC Gold which extended its conference winning streak to 43 straight games. Additionally, the Panthers won an 11th consecutive conference championship.
But the goals are much bigger than the conference at DeWitt, which provided profound disappointment last year when a late touchdown by Orchard Lake St. Mary’s sunk the Panthers by a 35-28 final in Division 4 regionals.
In the MHSAA playoff era, DeWitt has advanced to a state championship game five times and lost each one. Four of the state title game losses have been during Zimmerman’s tenure, while five other defeats have occurred in the state semifinals.
“That’s obviously our biggest goal since we haven’t achieved it,” Zimmerman said. “In any good program, that goal is certainly there and at the top of it. But I think developing quality kids and teaching work ethic, all the life skills that you can give as a coach becomes more and more important. But I am not trying to downplay that we’d love to win a state championship by any means.”
Zimmerman says this is the deepest offensive team he has had, struggling to even narrow it down to a couple names to mention at the forefront of it all.
Anthony Joseph will play quarterback for the Panthers and also start on defense, while junior returning starting center and team captain Adam Stone will lead the offensive line and play center.
Junior defensive tackle Michael Joseph, a returning starter, will be one of the leaders on that side of the ball. Senior team captain Alan Smith, a three-year starting free safety, also figures to be a big playmaker.