GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Heading into week six of the high school football season, the matchup between South Christian and Catholic Central was envisioned to be competitive from week one.
However, neither head coach could predict a game with this much weight to it.
Both schools at 5-0, the South Christian Sailors and Catholic Central Cougars, will play Friday at East Kentwood High School for the O-K Gold Conference title.
The two schools haven’t met since 2015 before the conferences were realigned. With both back in the same conference again, it’s no secret that both programs want this one for more than just the title.
“To say we thought we would be (5-0), we didn’t think that would happen, but we thought we would be successful, so we knew this would be a big game on the schedule and marked it as that,” said South Christian head coach Danny Brown. “This is a big game and it’s keeping the kids into it, we don’t have to motivate them for this one.”
Brown took over as the head coach for the Sailors in January of 2019 and played for the Sailors with his senior season in 2002 when they won a state title. He is the school’s sixth head coach.
The Sailors have made the playoffs four seasons in a row, but these are the kind of games that Brown believes will bring his program to even higher levels.
“This is why you want to be a South Christian football player,” Brown said. “To play in big games like this. We had a few of them back when I played, and you get hyped for the big ones. It’s a great experience for the kids.”
On the other side of the ball, it’s no secret what Catholic Central head coach Todd Kolster and company bring to the table.
The Cougars have won a state title in three of the last four years. Currently undefeated, they are on their way to being favored to win another.
For Kolster, these are the kind of games where teams learn a lot about who they are.
“It’s always a big one between us because I think from my perspective, both of our communities have a great deal of respect for each other,” Kolster said. “We’re so similar in terms of our tradition and great families. It has become a rivalry over the years.”
Kolster was the Coach of the Year in 2019 coming out of Division 4. He took over in 2017 and his teams have made runs toward a state title in each of them.
Big games aren’t a new thing to the Cougars. With COVID-19 taking away from the number of fans who can attend, Kolster doesn’t believe it changes the feel of how big this game truly is.
“It’s a shame that people from the communities can’t come enjoy it, but I think when the coaches and players get out there, it’s something their excited to play at the end of the day,” Kolster said. “You don’t recognize that stuff when the game gets going.”
For the Sailors, forcing turnovers on defense and playing clean offense will be the key to taking home a conference crown.
“We’ve done a really good job of that this year, I think we’ve only turned it over three times and forced 13,” Brown said. “We also need to be clean on special teams and limit their big play offense.”
No matter how the job gets done, for Kolster, winning championships is the number one goal.
“This is what you play and work for,” Kolster said. “It would mean a great deal to our seniors, it will definitely validate some of the work they put in.”