GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Haven has been one of the surprising football teams this fall.
The Grand Haven Bucs went winless a year ago but enter this week’s O-K Red conference matchup against state-ranked Caledonia with an impressive 3-1 mark.
“The kids really had a great off season and have done a good job grasping what we want to accomplish offensively and defensively,” Grand Haven coach Mike Farley said. “We’ve had some really tough opponents and all three of our wins have been really close, so we feel the competition we’ve played has been outstanding.”
Grand Haven opened the season with a 16-8 win over Muskegon Reeths-Puffer before losing its lone game to Traverse City West.
The Bucs bounced back with conference wins over Jenison (28-26) and West Ottawa (28-7).
“We were pretty optimistic going into the season, but we knew the schedule we had,” Farley said. “It’s a slugfest every week, and we could easily be 1-3 or 0-4 right now because of our opponents, but we’ve had some things go our way and this is where we are at.”
Friday’s game will be bittersweet for Farley because he will be coaching against one of his close friends.
First-year Caledonia coach Derek Pennington was on Farley’s staff in 2006 and 2007 and, the two have stayed in close contact ever since.
“I’ve known Derek since 2005 and he’s a dear friend of mine, so this will be a tough football game for me,” Farley said. “He’s an outstanding football coach and he has those kids ready to go sitting at 4-0.”
Pennington said it will be different seeing his good friend across the field.
“It’s a weird thing and we’ve never done that before,” he said. “I’ve never coached against Mike and we’ve kind of been joking about it this week. When the game starts, you’re coaching a football game, but obviously the friendship remains.”
The Caledonia Fighting Scots are 4-0 for the first time since 2012 and currently ranked No. 4 in Division 2.
Caledonia hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a game and has outscored its opponents 135-37.
“We’ve preached effort and energy and just being physical, and the kids have bought into what we’re trying to teach them,” Pennington said. “Our defense has been stout all year and we’ve avoided turnovers and played with leads.”
Farley knows the challenge ahead of his team as they try to contain Caledonia’s playmakers.
“They’re firing on all cylinders offensively and defensively,” Farley said. “They are tough up front on both sides of the ball and their quarterback is outstanding. They have quite a few kids that can hit the home run and they just swarm like crazy on defense.”
Ball control and the ability to limit turnovers have been key to Grand Haven’s success.
“We’ve done a good job of sustaining drives and running the football,” Farley said. “We’ve had only one turnover in four games, so that has helped in turnover ratio and being able to control the ball on offense. We have to keep their offense off the field.”
The Bucs possess size up front, led by senior offensive lineman and Division I recruit Dayne Arnett.
“They’re huge,” Pennington said. “They have a huge line and they have some big kids. We have to hold up to them running the football because Mike is a great coach and he knows the strength of his team.”
EDWARDSBURG (4-0) AT PLAINWELL (4-0); 7 P.M. FRIDAY
It’s a battle of unbeatens in the Wolverine Conference as the Edwardsburg Eddies hit the road to face the Plainwell Trojans.
Edwardsburg, ranked No. 2 in Division 4, has been dominant on both sides of the ball. The Eddies have outscored their first four opponents 203-7, which includes three shutouts, and have allowed only one touchdown while averaging 50 points per game.
Meanwhile Plainwell has been impressive, too. The Trojans have given up only 34 points, while limiting each opponent to 14 points or less.
Plainwell is 4-0 for the first time since 2013 but hasn’t beaten the Eddies since 2011 and is 1-8 overall against them.
Edwardsburg, which lost in the state semifinals last year, has only two losses in the last four years and won a state championship in 2018.
HUDSONVILLE (2-2) AT ROCKFORD (4-0); 7 P.M. FRIDAY
An O-K Red rivalry will take place when the Hudsonville Eagles travel to Rockford to take on the top-ranked team in Division 1.
The Rockford Rams survived an upset bid from Grandville last week before outlasting them 53-46 in double overtime to remain unbeaten.
Hudsonville has won back-to-back games in conference play, including a 23-22 thriller over Jenison last week.
The Eagles dropped their first two nonconference games against Saline and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s by a combined margin of only six points. Hudsonville has lost its last five meetings against the Rams.