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DeWitt Panther Football Traditions

Helmets and Uniforms:

Prior to the early 1960s, the uniforms were white with black numbers. And face masks were... non existant.

From the mid-1960s to 1980, the helmet shells and face masks were white with a simple blue band/stripe from front to back. Jerseys had the word DeWitt on the front and a light gold color or blue for home and away.

During the Gail Thornton era at DeWitt (1980-1998) the Panther helmets and uniforms resembled that of the University of Michigan with the traditional winged helmet look. Uniforms were gold and the jerseys blue or white (home blue, white away) with the word DeWitt on the front.

Starting with the Rob Zimmerman era, the Panther uniform scheme changed away from the winged helmet and Michigan look in 2000. Now, all three levels wear the same and most modern football helmet. The shell is dark blue as is the face mask. The Freshmen wear the helmet without any markings. The Junior Varsity teams earn their stripes after the Freshman year with a single gold band on the helmet.

The Varsity has one more added dimension with the oval Panther on each side of the helmet.

The DeWitt Public Schools use the upright panther logo as their brand. The oval panther is a change also brought in by Coach Zimmerman.  Zimmerman created the football panther logo to more of a forward leaning Panther head and added the blue oval around the panther head along with the gold band. Uniforms are blue or white jerseys and blue, gold or white pants.

Singing the Panther Fight Song after a Varsity Game.

Each home game, the marching band marches onto the field from the north end of the field and plays the fight song while in the block D formation.

In 1994, The Panthers were loaded with speed in the wishbone offense. Led by QB DJ Reyburn and backs Brandon Way, DJ McClure, Mike Brya and up front Kendall Crockett, Casey Laughlin and TJ Stone, the Panthers rolled with an awesome running attack.

After a nice week weather wise, the Panthers played a critical Ingham County League game at Haslett. DeWitt could wrap up the Ingham County League (ICL) title with a win over the Vikings as they led second place Fowlerville by a game. DeWitt had defeated Fowlerville earlier in the year 22-15.

As the Panthers arrive for their pregame warm ups, the field is a quagmire and several inches of mud make up the DeWitt sideline. Apparently the field crew left the sprinklers on all night and day before the game and had forgot to turn them off. DeWitt slogged their way to a 14-0 win. The team was so excited to win the ICL under those conditions, they went to the Panther sidelines and spontaneously sung the fight song with the awesome crowd and student section. Since, win or lose, the Panthers always sing “DeWitt Forever” after every game.

Thanks to Deb Rambow for sharing the source of this tradition.

The Panther Pride Banner and Mom Tunnel:

How exciting for a team to enter the field with a burst through paper banner made by the cheerleaders with parents and hometown fans cheering. Well, great for the first guy through who got to run through the paper..

Prior to the 2002 season, a newly formed parent group called the DeWitt Touchdown Club decided DeWitt needed a little more. The parents donated money for the Panther Pride banner. Also that year, the Moms, Aunts, Grandmothers started the Mom's Tunnel behind the banner.

Produced by Aaron Sports of DeWitt, the 20’ by 3’ nylon banner, for $380., was created similar to the Michigan M Club banner. Held by poles and guy ropes, the Banner has greeted the team for every game ever since from Menominee to St. Joseph to Mt. Pleasant, even in the Pontiac Silverdome and Ford Field. Sun, rain, wind, it always greets the team. The banner always is parallel to the goal line so fans on both sides of the field can enjoy it.

On the back side of the banner in the word "Reach". After pregame warm ups, the team goes back into the locker room for last minute “encouragement” from the coaches. Then, as a unit, the Panthers take the field and at that time they are ready to reach down within themselves to give it everything they have with Pride. Then as a signal to each other and the parents, school mates, fans and all, the Pride enters the field and each player swats the Banner held proudly the dads, uncles and grandfathers. And the cheerleaders got to hit it now and then. Kevin shared the story of the first year of the Banner at Chesaning. "I was holding one of the poles and it was raining and the Banner was really wet, then the guys came through and hit the banner and the spray from the rain on the Banner created a fog like appearance in the lights."  


Banner Pictures & Moms
August 30, 2002. The Banner makes its debut. When they are ready, they will reach and swat the Banner 2002 Semi Finals at South Lyon vs Bloomfield Hills Lasher 2021 at Stevensville Lakeshore 2017 entry "Under "Fire". Playoffs vs Cedar Springs. 2014 at Portland 2014 Tecumseh 2009 Banquet at St. Judes.
2005 Banner Dads at Fowlerville. Banner just waiting to be hoisted. 2013 Finals vs Zeeland West at Ford Field. 2002 vs Williamston. Go DeWitt. 2017 vs Grand Rapids Christian. 2010 vs St. Johns at Perry Shorts Stadium at Central Michigan University 2011, Armed Services recognition night vs Owosso. 2009 vs Portland. Pound that banner. 2012??
Mom Tunnel
2005 Mom, Aunts, Grandmas and sisters with the Banner vs Lansing Eastern. 2019 vs St. Joseph. Big Red leading the team. 2019 vs St. Joseph 2019 at Okemos. We pray everyone gets up from the pile every play. 2019 with signs. 2019 at Lansing Everett. Gooooo Team. 2019 at East Lansing playoffs. 2004 Pontiac Silverdome. They may not be easily seen, but they are right behind their sons.

Click on an image to enlarge.

Field Painting.

Late in the 2001 season, a field stencil ordered by Mike Brya, was purchased and laid/painted on the field for the playoffs in the shape of the Oval Football Logo.

Entering the 2002 season, Panther dad Wayne Bunce created the DEWITT stencils for the end zone. When initially laying out the stencils in the end zone, precise measurements were made to perfectly center the word in the end zone. Since, the Panther dads have passed on the duty and tradition of decorating Memorial Stadium field by laying out the word DEWITT in the end zones and painting the Panther in the middle of the field.

Bunce also created the words DeWitt Panthers that were on the press box for many years and installed them with the assistance of Kevin McKenna.

Of course, with the laying of the field turf in 2022, this tradition is now a memory. Rumor had it of a little freehand work done in 2002. Wayne...

The Panther: (From the hall of fame web site)

Ray Unger taught industrial arts and yearbook classes at DeWitt from 1969 until his retirement in 1994.  He was the mastermind and head craftsman behind the fire-breathing panther that sits atop the scoreboard in DeWitt Memorial Stadium.  The Panther has been a high school football icon not only in the mid-Michigan area but throughout the entire state.  The loud siren and shooting flames that come from the panther every time DeWitt scores have been intimidating opponents ever since the panther’s creation in 1988 and have become part of DeWitt’s football lore.

Perhaps one of the most adored, hated and photographed items in mid-Michigan was added to the Stadium in 1989. As referred to by one Haslett mom, "that damn thing” was mounted on top of the scoreboard for the last game of the 1989 season. The Fire Breathing Panther was constructed and installed by Ray Unger. Mr. Unger was the instructor in the metal shop class in DeWitt for many years. On a joke with Scott Lewis, the Panther was constructed from 3/16 boilerplate metal purchased by Peggy Williams from Motor Wheel for $350. Adding a furnace burner and battery, a siren off the old DeWitt City fire engine, a bucket lift donated by Capital Equipment placed the 12’ tall Panther on the scoreboard. The first game the Panther shot flame and siren wailed often during a 54-6 victory over Ithaca. Ithaca coach Jim Ahearn shook hands with Panther coach Gail Thornton after the game and joked that if he new what the score would have been, he would have brought a can of gas with him. The Panther was first used in 1988 and was on a portable wagon that could be moved by the cheerleaders. While a teacher at DeWitt, Mr. Unger’s metal creations adorn every building in the district.

In 2018, the fuel oil furnace burner was replace by some modern techno secretative mechanism. Now, nearly every Friday night on the local TV sports segments, the camera always turns to show “The Fire!”.

What is it like??? Turn up your speakers and Enjoy!!



For many years the DeWitt student section has proclaimed themselves the ZimmZone. Prior to each game, after coming onto the field under the Banner, home and away, the team makes their way to the ZimmZone for high fives and hand shakes. They are a colorful and spirited part of the game experience.   

Walk to Stadium, Hand in Hand:

From 1974 to 2011, The Panthers walked down the paw lined ramp onto the stadium and entered the field at the northeast side of the field. After the "new high school" opened in 2000, The Panthers walk from the high school to the stadium. After the 2011 improvements, the Panthers walk to the stadium from the the locker rooms at the southwest corner of the field and onto the field under the Banner.