It has been a difficult road to the state finals for DeWitt, the defending state champion in Division 3, beating third-ranked Mount Pleasant in the district final and seventh-ranked Cedar Springs in the regionals.
But the Panthers face their biggest test of the season in prime time Saturday night against top-ranked Detroit King, which is playing in its eighth state championship game. The Crusaders won titles in 2007, 2015, 2016 and 2018 - beating DeWitt in the semifinals in the latter.
FINAL: Detroit King 25, DeWitt 21
Detroit King converted a third-and-6 play its own 12-yard line with less than two minutes left on the clock. Another first down later, and DeWitt isn't going to get the ball back.
Detroit King is your D3 state title.
For DeWitt, Tyler Holtz was 10 of 18 for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Nick Flegler led the rushing attack with 69 yards, and Tommy McIntosh caught six balls for 90 yards.
It'll all come back to that goalline stand with 2:34 to go, though, when the Panthers couldn't punch it in on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
DeWitt stuffed at goalline on 4th down
That might be the game if DeWitt can't get the ball back.
On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Bryce Debri was stuffed a foot short of the end zone by a bevy of Detroit King defenders. That ends the Panthers' 11-play, 67-yard drive with 2:34 left in the game.
DeWitt had effortlessly moved the ball down the ball field, too, until the goal-to-go situation. DeWitt has two timeouts left. Detroit King 25, DeWitt 21, 2:34 4Q.
Detroit King overcomes penalties to take lead
Detroit King had a first-and-goal negated by a penalty, leaving the Crusaders with second-and-20 on the DeWitt 24, but it didn't matter. Dante Moore hit Lamont Parks for 11 yards, then Joseph Williams for 10 yards and first-and-goal from the 3. From there, Sterling Anderson carried the ball into the end zone to put King ahead. Detroit King 25, DeWitt 21, 8:22 4Q
Tyler Holtz throws interception on first play of 4Q
Detroit King has the ball on the DeWitt 25-yard line after DeWitt QB Tyler Holtz was intercepted by Terrence Brown. 11:50 left in the game.
End Third Quarter: DeWitt 21, Detroit King 19
DeWitt faces a third-and-16 on its own 26-yard line when play resumes.
The Panthers had converted a first down on the final play of the quarter on a jump pass to Bryce Debri, but they were flagged for having an ineligible receiver downfield.
Detroit King makes a few plays, but DeWitt holds
Detroit King's drive started on its own 6-yard line and the Crusaders got all the way down to the DeWitt 25-yard line before the Panther defense - and a couple of penalties - stalled out the King drive. DeWitt 21, Detroit King 19, 1:06 3Q
DeWitt gets inside 10, but denied TD
It looks like DeWitt ran the same play it used to score its first TD, trying to find Bryce Debri out in the flat, but Detroit King was ready for it on fourth-and-4 from the 6, as the Panthers were unable to cash in on the turnover.
A potential interception by Detroit King on third-and-4 from the MLK 6 was ruled incomplete, and confirmed upon review. DeWitt 21, Detroit King 19, 6:21 3Q.
Bryce Kurncz brings the lumber, forcing fumble
That was a nice defensive play call for DeWitt, sending Bryce Kurncz on a corner blitz. Detroit King QB Dante Moore never saw him, and Kurncz got the sack-forced fumble, which was recovered by DeWitt's Trevor Dennis on the MLK 33-yard line. DeWitt 21, Detroit King 19, 8:06 3Q
DeWitt goes three-and-out to start 2nd half
The Panthers go three-and-out to start the second half. A three-yard run by Bryce Debri was followed by an errant toss on second down that lost 9 yards. Detroit King takes over on its own 29-yard line. DeWitt 21, Detroit King 19, 9:50 3Q.
HALFTIME: DeWitt 21, Detroit King 19
DeWitt scored twice in the final minute of the half to take a 21-19 lead over Detroit King.
The Panthers have 185 yards of offense. Tyler Holtz is 8 of 13 for 107 yards and two touchdowns, with Tommy McIntosh having 75 yards receiving with one touchdown. Nick Flegler leads with 45 rushing yards.
WOW! What a turn of events - Tyler Holtz pick-six gives DeWitt the lead
Detroit King was trying to get a score just before halftime. Instead, DeWitt made the Crusaders pay.
On a second-and-5 play from midfield, Tyler Holtz - who threw a pick-six earlier in the game - read the eyes of King QB Dante Moore and picked him off at the 32-yard line.
And Holtz took it to the house - rumbling 68 yards down the right sideline for the go-ahead touchdown. What a play! That was only Moore's fourth interception of the year. DeWitt 21, Detroit King 19, 0:15 2Q
DeWitt offense also humming, comes back with TD
DeWitt goes 76 yards in only 8 plays, and the scoring drive was capped off on a 15-yard touchdown pass to from Tyler Holtz to Tommy McIntosh, who found himself wide open on a crossing route.
McIntosh also had an 18-yard reception earlier in the drive. He's up to 75 receiving yards on the day. XP good. Detroit King 19, DeWitt 14, 0:40 2Q
Detroit King offense keeps humming, scores again
The Crusader offense hadn't been on the field since the Dante Moore fumble late in the first quarter. But the Detroit King offense made it look very easy, as it went 70 yards in nine plays, capped off with a 6-yard TD run by Terrence Brown. The 2-point conversion was no good. Detroit King 19, DeWitt 7, 3:03 2Q.
DeWitt's first red-zone trip ends with touchdown
DeWitt finally reached the red zone on its fourth possession of the game, and the Panthers cashed in with a touchdown, as Tyler Holtz threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Debri.
The drive was nine plays, 64 yards. The key plays were a 19-yard pass to Bryce Kurncz and an 11-yard run from Nick Flegler.
Detroit King 13, DeWitt 7, 5:46 2Q.
Pick-six sees Detroit King take 13-0 lead
Very little is going right offensively for DeWitt.
On a first-and-10 play from the Detroit King 45-yard line, the pass from DeWitt QB Tyler Holtz was tipped at the line of scrimmage by defensive end Kenny Merriweather, who also picked it off and then rumbled 45 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was missed. Detroit King 13, DeWitt 0, 10:42 2Q.
End First Quarter: Detroit King 7, DeWitt 0
DeWitt will have first-and-10 on its own 42-yard line when play resumes, following a 10-yard pass to Tommy McIntosh.
Tyler Holtz is 2 of 4 passing for 31 yards, Nick Flegler has 32 rushing yards and Tommy McIntosh has all 31 receiving yards.
King QB Dante Moore is 8 of 8 for 93 yards.
DeWitt defense recovers fumble in red zone
DeWitt got the red-zone stop on Detroit King's second possession, and did the same on the third possession, recovering a Dante Moore fumble.
That was a great job by DeWitt coach Rob Zimmerman, who used a timeout and the officials decided to take a look at it. The original call, that Landon Taber recovered the ball out of bounds, was overturned. Detroit King 7, DeWitt 0, 1:53 1Q
DeWitt punts again
I suspect there haven't been many games in the past few years where DeWitt punted on its first two possessions. But the Panthers have been forced to do so this evening, after Tyler Holtz took his second sack of the game. King takes over on the DeWitt 49. Detroit King 7, DeWitt 0, 3:12 1Q.
Detroit King TD negated by penalty
It looked like Detroit King was going to take a 14-0 lead, but a touchdown was negated by a penalty. And on fourth-and-6 from the DeWitt 10, Tommy McIntosh tackled Lynn Wyche-El in open space for the turnover on downs. Detroit King 7, DeWitt 0, 5:25 1Q.
DeWitt punts on first drive
DeWitt did pick up a first down on a Nick Flegler run, but Ty Holtz took a sack and King forced a punt.
Detroit King strikes first in what should be a high-scoring affair
On a first-and-10 play, Detroit King showed a passing formation. Instead, the handoff went to Terrence Brown on a counter and he had a gaping hole, rumbling 51 yards untouched for a touchdown. Detroit King 7, DeWitt 0, 11:04 1Q.
DeWitt - Detroit King game time
The Division 3 state title game between DeWitt and Detroit King is slated to begin at 8:02 p.m. on Bally Sports Detroit Plus.
The Panthers look to become the third Greater Lansing team to win a football state championship, after Lansing Catholic won D6 and Pewamo-Westphalia D7.
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This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: DeWitt vs. Detroit King football: Score, live updates from D3 final