GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s been nearly three years since the Zeeland East football team lost an O-K Green game.
Byron Center hopes to snap that winning streak on Friday when it hosts the two-time defending conference champions.
The Zeeland East Chix have won 15 straight conference games and haven’t suffered a setback since early in the 2016 season.
“They are the defending champs, and they are the champs until they’re not,” Byron Center Bulldogs coach Marc Cisco said. “They’ve won 15 consecutive conference games and they can beat you all kinds of ways.
“They can beat you running the ball, throwing the ball and they are physical up front on both sides of the ball. They’re really athletic as a team, so that creates issues all over the field.”
Byron Center is off to its best start since 2002 and have racked up 221 points en route to its perfect record and state ranking.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have allowed only 82 points and enter Friday’s pivotal showdown on the heels of a 48-0 rout of Comstock Park.
“I’m real proud of the progress our kids have made throughout the season,” Cisco said. “They’ve found a way to battle and get a little better each week. You have to take baby steps every week and our kids have accepted that challenge and done a good job with it.”
Zeeland East coach Derek Pennington is proud of his program’s success over the past few years but understands that the streak will be tested in the coming weeks.
“We take pride in that, and winning conference championships, that’s your goal,” Pennington said. “We’ve won it the last two years and we have a conference win streak going and obviously that is going to be challenged over the next three weeks.”
“We’re playing some really tough teams so we have to focus on one at a time and Byron Center is a great team, so our kids will be super motivated for Friday night.”
The Chix are currently 5-1, with the only blemish coming against nonconference foe Grand Rapids Catholic Central in Week 3.
Since that 35-17 loss, they’ve won three straight and have averaged 46 points per game during that stretch.
“We’ve done a nice job on offense scoring points, but we have to protect the ball a little better than we have,” Pennington said. “When you are playing a team like Byron Center that’s 6-0, you have to come out ready to go and we can’t be turning the ball over.
“Our kids have shown a lot of resilience in games because we haven’t exactly started games great at times. I hope we come out and play a little better at the beginning Friday night.”
The Chix will look to slow down Bulldogs senior quarterback Austin VanderMarkt, who has been a consistent dual threat.
“Everything starts with their quarterback,” Pennington said. “He is very athletic, and he scores a lot of touchdowns. You have to get him on the ground somehow and get him stopped.”
CEDAR SPRINGS RED HAWKS (5-1) at LOWELL RED ARROWS (4-2)
Cedar Springs also brings a lengthy conference winning streak into its tilt against Lowell.
The Cedar Springs Red Hawks, who are the defending champions, have won 10 consecutive O-K White games and will look to keep that intact against an improved Lowell Red Arrows’ team.
After suffering through a 1-8 campaign a year ago, Lowell has turned it around by winning four of its first six games and is currently tied with the Cedar Springs atop the conference standings.
Lowell’s only losses have come against nonconference powerhouses Rockford and Zeeland West.
Cedar Springs is coming off a huge 30-6 win over Forest Hills Central and will try to avoid an emotional letdown.
HUDSONVILLE EAGLES (5-1) at ROCKFORD RAMS (6-0)
Rockford, the third-ranked team in Division 1, is vying for another O-K Red championship as it hosts the Eagles Friday night.
The Rams have won six straight to open the season for the first time since 2009, despite a pair of close calls the past two weeks.
Rockford barely defeated Grand Haven (19-14) and Caledonia (10-7), but its defense has allowed just over 11 points per game.
Hudsonville is coming off a big win over state-ranked Grandville. The Eagles rallied from a second-half deficit to earn an impressive 44-21 road win.
Hudsonville has struggled against the Rams in recent years, losing five of the last six meetings. It lost twice to them last year by a combined nine points.