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D3 FINALS: Ty Holtz caps off perfect debut season, leading DeWitt past defending champ River Rouge for program’s first title

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, January 24, 2021, 12:18 am

DETROIT — Last year, it was River Rouge coming into the final game of championship weekend, and slaying the dragon, beating Muskegon to earn its first state title.

This time, it was DeWitt flipping the script, with led by a junior quarterback — Mr. Football finalist Ty Holtz — coming into the Division 3 title game, and knocking off the defending champs, River Rouge, 40-30, earning its first crown. 

“They won a state championship, and they beat Muskegon and River Rouge in the semifinals and finals to do it. I think that says it all right there,” DeWitt coach Rob Zimmerman said. I mean, Division 3 is obviously very, very difficult, and to beat both those teams is obviously a credit to those kids.”

“I can’t even describe. They’re one of the best teams this program has ever seen. They’ve got the most D-I guys of anybody in the playoffs … Going into the week, our coaches put together a great game-plan,” junior Tommy McIntosh said. “Every practice, coach Zimm put it into our head that we’re playing for a state championship. This is the state championship game. We have 48 minutes left on the season, win or lose. We just kind of said ‘We want to win this thing.’ Everything we did up to that point, practices, outside of practices, texting each other what we saw on film, it’s just one big family here. We trust each other. I trust each and every one of my guys to make plays. I don’t know — I just love my guys.”

Holtz threw for 177 yards and four scores and ran for 118 yards and another touchdown, as the DeWitt Panthers (11-0) scored early and often, winning a shootout with River Rouge (9-1) by a 40-30 score. 

The DeWitt junior quarterback hit four different receivers with scoring passes — Blake Beachnau (15 yards), Andrew Debri (8), Nicholas Flegler (35) and McIntosh (25) — as his team opened up a 27-8 lead over the defending champs by the 5:14 mark of the third quarter. 

“No. 5 (Holtz), I can’t put into words how proud of him I am. Coming into this season, the dude hadn’t — he played safety last year. We didn’t really know what was coming. He could’ve come out and been all right, but he came out in Game 1, and he was firing,” McIntosh said. “We knew in the offseason that this dude was good, but for him to come out in Week 1 and do that, we were like ‘Wow, we’ve got one of the best quarterbacks that we’ve ever seen.’ He should be Mr. Football. That man right there does everything. He can run, he can throw. Give the man the award right now. I’m so proud of my guy Ty. Growing up, we always talked about that we were going to win a championship. We were going to win it twice, back to back. This is step one. Obviously, we’ve got another year, but we’re going to enjoy this one. My guy right there, I’ve got one more year with him.”

Last year’s D3 title game hero, Western Michigan-bound Mareyohn Hrabowski had a pair of touchdown runs — 4 and 3 yards — and hit freshman Nicholas Marsh with a fourth-quarter touchdown to twice bring River Rouge back within a two-score margin, but DeWitt recovered the onside kick after Hrabowski’s TD with 1:27 left, and killed the clock the rest of the way to end the game.

Hrabowski finished with 94 yards rushing and two scores to go with 227 yards through the air and a pair of scores — including a 52-yard pass to Jalen Holly early in the second quarter. 

“Our quarterback, I mean, what a season, what a career. You couldn’t ask for a better kid to lead your team,” River Rouge coach Corey Parker said. “Just today, it wasn’t our day early on. You can’t play an opponent like that and start off slow.”