GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Asked what Grand Rapids Catholic Central does well on the football field, all Forest Hills Eastern head coach Joe Schwander could do was answer with a question:

“I mean, how many games have they won in a row?”

The answer: 42 and counting.

“They do everything well,” said Schwander, whose team faces Catholic Central on Friday. “They’re super well coached in every phase of the game. We’re trying to replicate that the best we can at practice and compete at a high level at practice so it carries over to the game.”

The Catholic Central Cougars (4-0) will welcome the Forest Hills Eastern Hawks (4-0) to the CAT for a matchup of the unbeatens at 7 p.m. Friday. It may turn out to be the biggest contest in the O-K Gold this season and is certainly one of the marquee matchups of the week — not just in West Michigan but also statewide.

Forest Hills Eastern football practice. (Sept. 21, 2022)
Forest Hills Eastern football practice on Sept. 21, 2022. (Andrew McDonald/WOOD TV8)

While it may just seem like another week for Catholic Central, head coach Todd Kolster knows well that looking ahead can trip a team up on the way to a championship.

“I mean, conference games are big,” Kolster said. “Our No. 1 goal is to win the conference every year. Right now, Forest Hills Eastern is a great conference opponent. If we can’t beat them, we’re going to have a hard time winning the conference.”

The Hawks have blossomed this season into an offensive powerhouse, averaging 40 points per game through the first four weeks. There hasn’t been an opponent facing a closer deficit than 19 points when the clock hit zero.

With a chance to knock the Cougars off their winning streak, Schwander said his team is looking at it as a battle with a team in their backyard.

“They’re like any high school kid right now being super excited to play someone right down the road,” Schwander said. “I don’t think the undefeated thing plays into it. Our kids want to get better so they’re excited to have the opportunity to play football and compete.”

Grand Rapids Catholic Central football practice. (Sept. 21, 2022)
Grand Rapids Catholic Central football practice on Sept. 21, 2022. (Andrew McDonald/WOOD TV8)

The Cougars have won three consecutive state championships and five of the past six seasons (three in Division 4, two in Division 5). In three of their four games this season, they have outscored their opponents 128-6. The other game with Cedar Springs came down to a two-point conversion, which Catholic Central stopped to win 21-20. They have seen close games and blowouts already in 2022.

Kolster says winning games like this pays dividends when the playoffs come looming in October.

“From a coaching standpoint, we have to spend a lot of time on the fundamentals and those things. Games like this are where you find out what mistakes you are or aren’t making,” he said. “I think right now we are getting better at finding those kinds of things week by week.”