GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Most high school football teams do not get a bye week during the regular season.
However, that’s exactly what Zeeland East experienced last week due to a Week 2 forfeit after Detroit Douglass canceled its season due to a lack of numbers.
The unexpected week off has helped give the Chix (2-0) extra time to prepare for an extremely talented Catholic Central squad.
The two teams meet Friday night at Zeeland Stadium.
“We’ve worked hard getting ready for because we knew that was a tough game for us coming Week 3,” said Zeeland East coach Derek Pennington, whose team defeated Windsor (ON) Holy Names 49-14 in the season opener. “Our focus has been on them since we won down in Detroit in Week 1.”
Zeeland East is coming off one of its best seasons in school history after winning 11 games a year ago and advancing to the Division 3 state semifinals.
Although graduation losses took its toll, Catholic Central coach Todd Kolster said the Chix will present a formidable challenge.
“They are a heck of a football team, and it’s unfortunate that they didn’t have an opportunity to play last week. I know they will be excited to play,” he said. “They might be the best team we play up until this point and they are excellent on the defensive side of the ball.”
“They lost some good players, but have some good kids who have stepped in. Their offense causes problems because they can throw it, they can run it and they can do a lot of different things. This game will get us ready for our conference, and if we hopefully put things together, ready for the playoffs.”
The Cougars, who have produced three straight seasons with double-digit wins and won state titles in 2015 and 2016, currently are 1-1.
They opened with a 17-14 road win over River Rouge before falling at home to Niles (IL) Notre Dame 21-14.
“It starts with their defense,” Pennington said. “I’ve seen both games live, and it feels like everybody is lining up after three downs because of their defense. He has a bunch of kids that have played awhile and it’s probably the best defense we’ll see all season.”
The Chix are still trying to find their identity, according to Pennington.
“We don’t know what we can do because we’ve only played on game,” he said. “It’s our home opener and we’re excited to play a big game here. We will find out a lot about ourselves this week.”
Portage Northern (2-0) at Portage Central (1-1)
The renewal of a longstanding rivalry will take place Friday night as Portage Northern and Portage Central square off for the 61st time in a SWAC-West tilt.
The Huskies enter with an unbeaten mark after wins over Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (41-0) and Stevensville-Lakeshore (14-6).
Portage Northern is looking for a return to the postseason after going 9-3 a year ago and reaching the regional finals.
“It’s a special game for the community,” Huskies coach Pete Schermerhorn said. “Both schools’ student bodies get really excited and it’s not like any other game inside the schools. It adds a little bit of bounce and energy to your practice and it’s a big night of high school football for our community.”
Last season, Portage Northern lost to Portage Central during the regular season but gained redemption with a playoff win.
“They know who we’re playing, so the real challenge is to stay grounded and focused and keep improving every day,” Schermerhorn said. “We have to make sure we take care of business to grow and be the best team we can be.”
Portage Central defeated Richland Gull Lake 21-7 to open the season but fell to Kalamazoo Central 40-27 last Friday.
“Two schools, one community,” Mustangs coach Mick Enders said of the rivalry. “The kids know each other. They grow up together and that’s probably the biggest thing. We have to make sure we have a good week of practice and try to treat it like any other week.”
“We don’t want to get too high or too low and just really focus on having a good week of practice. They are a really good ball club and they’re playing really well right now.”
Portage Central has a 39-21 edge in the all-time series and has won six of the last seven meetings.
“Anything can happen in a rivalry game, and usually in these types of games, they do,” Enders said. “Our kids are working hard and looking forward to Friday night.”
East Grand Rapids (1-1) at Muskegon (2-0)
The Big Reds defeated their second consecutive defending state champion after a 41-18 win over Detroit Martin Luther King last week. It was their 29th win in the last 30 games.
Muskegon, which also defeated Warren De La Salle in Week 1, avenged last year’s loss in the Division 3 title game.
The Big Reds will get a familiar foe this week as East Grand Rapids visits in the pursuit of an upset.
The Pioneers knocked off Forest Hills Northern last week for their first victory of the season after a loss to Zeeland West in Week 1.
East Grand Rapids lost twice to Muskegon last season, which included a season-ending loss in district play.