GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Catholic Central football team posted a 33-0 shutout over the Sparta Spartans in Week 4 of the regular season.
The Spartans hope the rematch goes dramatically different.
The top two teams in the O-K Blue Conference will play for a Division 4 district title Friday night.
The Catholic Central Cougars won the O-K Blue with a perfect record, but coach Todd Kolster is wary of another meeting with a much-improved Sparta squad.
“It’s really difficult to play the same team twice,” Kolster said. “You look at the O-K Conference and a lot of the leagues are based on enrollment, so your district lines up like this, so it’s interesting.
There are positives and negatives. You have an understanding of personnel and what they are good at and what you have to try and take away. They have a good idea, too.”
Both teams enter Friday’s matchup with 9-1 overall records.
Catholic Central handed Sparta its only loss of the season. Since then, the Spartans have won six in a row, including a surprising 35-0 win over previously unbeaten Muskegon Orchard View in pre-districts.
Sparta’s nine wins are the most since the 1953 team went 9-0.
“They have a lot of weapons and they are playing a high level of football offensively and defensively,” Kolster said. “They have skills guys and running backs that double as receivers. Their quarterback is a tough kid to bring down and their front seven is as good as anybody with their physicality.”
The Cougars are playing in their fifth straight district final and have won three in a row.
“We’re very fortunate to have had success recently and it’s a big deal,” Kolster said. “Sometimes you can take it for granted, but we are not. We’re playing for a fourth straight district title, which would be a school record. For our seniors to say they won districts all four years of their high school career would be a real special thing.”
EAST KENTWOOD FALCONS (6-4) at BRIGHTON BULLDOGS (8-2)
The East Kentwood Falcons avenged a loss to O-K Red their rival the Rockford Rams in their regular season finale by defeating the Rams 38-12 in last week’s playoff opener. East Kentwood is making its second straight appearance in the district finals after losing to Saline a year ago. The Falcons beat the Brighton Bulldogs last year in a pre-district matchup and hope to do the same Friday night. The Bulldogs have won five of their last six games.
GRAND HAVEN BUCCANEERS (6-4) at HUDSONVILLE EAGLES (7-3)
The Hudsonville Eagles are in search of their first district title since 2014 and will face a familiar O-K Red foe. Hudsonville opened the playoffs with a 38-7 road win over Traverse City West, while the Grand Haven Buccaneers upset Grandville for their first playoff win since 2009. The Eagles blanked Grand Haven 33-0 in Week 3; however, the Buccaneers are rolling after a 1-4 start and have won five straight games.
MIDLAND DOW CHARGERS (7-3) at MONA SHORES SAILORS (8-2)
The Mona Shores Sailors earned a 20-13 road win last week in pre-districts but return home for a chance for a second straight district title. Mona Shores reached the Division 2 finals last season and will meet a Midland Dow Chargers squad that started 0-2 but recovered to win five consecutive games. The Chargers’ last district title came in 2015.
EAST GRAND RAPIDS PIONEERS (7-3) at BYRON CENTER BULLDOGS (10-0)
The Byron Center Bulldogs are in the midst of their best season in school history and went unbeaten during the regular season for the first time since 1952. Byron Center had back-to-back losing seasons before their staggering turnaround en route to an O-K Green Conference championship. The East Grand Rapids Pioneers knocked off Lowell last week and is seeking is first district title since 2015. The two teams last met in the postseason in 2009 and 2010 with the Pioneers winning both times.
“A lot of guys put a lot of time in to help turn the culture around,” Byron Center coach Marc Cisco said. “We’ve gotten better and better each week and responded well when things didn’t go our way. East Grand Rapids is really good and is so well-coached. Offensively they create problems all over the field, but we’ll be ready for the challenge on Friday.”
EDWARDSBURG EDDIES (10-0) at ZEELAND WEST DUX (9-1)
The Zeeland West Dux will attempt to stop Edwardsburg’s 24-game winning streak in Friday’s district final. The Edwardsburg Eddies are the defending Division 4 state champions and have lost only three games in the last four years. The Dux’ lone loss came against O-K Green champion and unbeaten Byron Center in Week 5. Zeeland West has lost back-to-back district finals.
MARSHALL REDHAWKS (6-4) at PAW PAW REDSKINS (9-1)
Paw Paw is primed to win its first district title since 2011 when it hosts Marshall Friday night. The Paw Paw Redskins went unbeaten before losing their regular season finale against Edwardsburg and have relied on a defense that has allowed less than 10 points per game. Marshall won its first playoff game since 2009 with a 43-6 win over Plainwell last week. The Redhawks qualified for the state playoffs after three straight losing seasons.
GRAND RAPIDS SOUTH CHRISTIAN SAILORS (6-4) vs. UNITY CHRISTIAN CRUSADERS (7-3) at Jenison HS
The Unity Christian Crusaders took the first step in defending its state title from a year ago after trouncing Otsego 61-7 in pre-districts, while South Christian upset O-K Gold Conference champion Grand Rapids Christian 31-28 to move on. The Crusaders and the South Christian Sailors met in Week 5 in nonconference play with Unity winning 32-20. South Christian hasn’t won a district championship since its state title run in 2014.
“There’s a tradition of excellence here and obviously there is motivation after they beat us earlier in the year,” first-year South Christian coach Danny Brown said. “I don’t know how teams had three-game losing streaks (during the season), but this team never faltered. They showed up to work, they trusted the process and they’ve played good football. It’s always a big game because there is a close bond between both programs so there is the added emotion of that.”
KALAMAZOO UNITED FIGHTING IRISH (6-4) vs. HOPKINS VIKINGS (9-1) at Hamilton HS
It’ll be a rematch of last year’s district final when the O-K Silver champions face Kalamazoo United. The Kalamazoo United Fighting Irish defeated the Hopkins Vikings 46-35 last season, but Hopkins hopes to avenge that loss and win their first district crown since 2008. Kalamazoo United went 11-1 last season and lost in the regional finals to eventual state champion Unity Christian.
“It’s a new season and (we) want to go 2-0 because this season we’re having way too much fun,” Hopkins coach Cody Francis said. “Their program has had a lot of success the last two years and played a heck of a schedule, so we’re not going to overlook them. Last year’s seniors helped rebuild the program and this year’s core group want to bring back some hardware.”
RAVENNA BULLDOGS (8-2) at MONTAGUE WILDCATS (8-2)
Two familiar foes will square off for the opportunity to extend the season. It’ll be a rematch from Week 6 when the Ravenna Bulldogs defeated the Montague Wildcats 17-7 in West Michigan Conference play. The longtime rivals have played 56 times through the years with Montague holding a 33-23 edge, but this will be their first postseason meeting since 2003. Ravenna hasn’t allowed a point in the last weeks, while Montague is riding a four-game winning streak.
KENT CITY EAGLES (7-3) at PEWAMO-WESTPHALIA PIRATES (10-0)
Kent City will look for the upset of the Division 7 perennial powerhouse. The Pirates have lost only three games in the last five years, while winning back-to-back state championships in 2016 and 2017. Pewamo-Westphalia has allowed only 21 points, including seven shutouts, the entire season while racking up a staggering 429 points. The Eagles have never won a district title.