GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mona Shores football coach Matt Koziak wishes all high school kids could have the opportunity to play in games like the one slated for Friday night.
It doesn’t get much better than two perennial state powerhouses clashing in a battle for bragging rights in Muskegon.
“This is what high school football should be about and every kid should play in a game like this,” Koziak said. “It’s big for our community to come out and support their teams and this is a reward for all their hard work. I’m excited for our communities and the kids on both teams.”
Mona Shores will host Muskegon in a game that will decide the O-K Black title.
Both teams are currently 4-0 in conference play, but The Muskegon Big Reds have won the last three conference championships and beaten the Mona Shores Sailors three years in a row.
“They’ve won it the last three years and to win it, it has to go through them, so that’s what is at stake,” Koziak said. “We want to win the O-K Black as well as they do and it’s great for fans to come out and watch.”
The Big Reds, who have appeared in six of the last seven state finals, are unbeaten and have only been tested once this season after edging East Grand Rapids 28-23 in Week 3.
They’ve outscored their opponents 335-58, scoring 40 points or more six times while recording three shutouts.
The Sailors will try to contain Ohio State-bound quarterback Cam Martinez and his stable of playmakers.
“Cam is an outstanding player and we do have to stop him, but they have other weapons that can hurt us too, so we can’t be totally focused on him,” Koziak said. “They have guys who if you leave them alone (they) can hurt you as well.”
Mona Shores, which also advanced to Ford Field last season, has won three in a row after a loss to state-ranked and unbeaten Rockford. The Sailors’ offense also has the potential to put up points in bunches.
“It’s a team that is 6-1 and it’s a team that can beat you,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “It’s a team that believes in what they’re doing and believes in their coaches and they have some athletes. They have some really good kids and I think both programs’ systems, expectations, accountability and discipline are mirrors of one another.”
The Big Reds have given up only one sack this season, and Fairfield said continuing to protect Martinez while winning the turnover battle are key factors in this game.
“The turnover game is huge, and that’s what it is going to come down to,” Fairfield said. “For us, hanging onto the ball has been huge for us and we haven’t turned it over a lot. It’s been a big time plus in takeaway margin.”
GRAND RAPIDS CHRISTIAN EAGLES (5-2) at EAST GRAND RAPIDS PIONEERS (5-2)
The O-K Gold championship is at stake Friday night when the two remaining unbeaten teams square off.
Grand Rapids Christian and East Grand Rapids shared the conference title a year ago, but each team is hoping to avoid that this season.
Grand Rapids Christian lost its first two games to Rockford and Zeeland West, respectively, but have bounced back and won five straight.
“Starting 0-2 against great programs put us in a jam early and our backs were against the wall,” Grand Rapids Christian coach Don Fellows said. “There was no room for mistakes after that and now we’re 5-2 so I’m proud to see the kids battle and persevere like they have.”
The Grand Rapids Christian Eagles edged rival South Christian 27-20 last week and improved to 4-0 in conference play.
“Playing South Christian and East Grand Rapids back-to-back presents a big challenge for us,” Fellows said. “Two huge rivalry games, and there’s been a different sense of intensity around here.”
The EGR Pioneers have lost only one conference game in the past four years and has showcased its electric offense in recent weeks by averaging 46 points. They dropped two of their first three games against Zeeland West and Muskegon by a combined 12 points.
Pioneers coach Casey Longo is looking forward to the challenge of playing the Eagles with conference title hopes looming.
“Whenever we play Grand Rapids Christian it’s a fun game and it’s a big opportunity for both programs with a conference title and playoff berth on the line here,” Longo said. “Offensively, they are explosive as they always are, and they take shots down the field.
“Their defensive line is very good, and they are well-coached kids. It’s a tough matchup for us but handling the adversity and ups and downs early has helped us get ready for the rest of the season.”
The rivalry has gone back and forth in recent years with East Grand Rapids holding a 6-5 edge in the last 11 meetings.
ROCKFORD RAMS (7-0) at GRANDVILLE BULLDOGS(6-1)
The battle for the top spot in the O-K Red has been whittled down to three teams as the Rockford Rams and the Grandville Bulldogs tangle with major title implications on the line.
Rockford are the lone remaining unbeaten in conference play, however, Grandville and The Hudsonville Eagles are one game back.
The Rams handed the Eagles their first conference loss last week in a 17-7 win, while the Bulldogs rebounded from its first setback with a dominating 64-25 road win against West Ottawa to secure a playoff berth for the fifth time in six years.
Rockford has already punched its ticket to the postseason for the 25th straight year and matched the 2009 team with seven straight wins to open the season.
Rockford and Grandville are playing for the 72nd time with the Rams winning 15 of the last 16 meetings.
RAVENNA BULLDOGS (6-1) at OAKRIDGE EAGLES (7-0)
The top two teams in the West Michigan Conference square off in a key rivalry game.
Oakridge has outscored its opponents 305-61 this season, including 104-15 the last two weeks in wins over Hart and North Muskegon.
The Oakridge Eagles have qualified for the state playoffs for the 15th consecutive season.
The Ravenna Bulldogs reeled off six straight wins since dropping its season opener to Hopkins, 22-20. Their defense has allowed only 16 points the past three weeks and is having its best season since 2016.
Ravenna has only 12 wins in the all-time series as the two teams meet for the 53rd time.
The Bulldogs haven’t beaten the Eagles since 2011.