GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s that time again: High school football season.
As always, Football Frenzy will be covering all the big games in West Michigan — and keeping an eye on the teams that could make it to the state championships.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Three West Michigan teams won state titles a year ago: Zeeland West, Grand Rapids West Catholic and Muskegon Catholic Central.
But the celebration is over. All three begin the defense of those championships this week.
John Shillito’s Division 3 Zeeland West Dux open against Detroit Country Day on Thursday. Shillito lost several key players to graduation, but history shows that Shillito-coached teams usually make due.
At MCC, Steve Czerwon took over for legend Mike Holmes and is quickly building one of his own.
In just his second season, the Crusaders won the Division 8 state title last autumn. And for the first time in 30 years, they’ll play in a conference this season — the Lakes 8.
They have also have 18 starters returning, nine on each side of the ball.
And as they always do, the West Catholic Falcons, defending state champs in Division 5, have a brutal schedule to contend with. They open the season on Oakridge’s home turf — a team they beat on the drive to Ford Field last season.
OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH
Muskegon Big Reds
The defending champs aren’t the only teams to watch out for in West Michigan — Muskegon made the trek to Ford Field last year and has visions of returning.
The Big Reds lost some key weapons, including quarterback Deshawn Thrower, but they return four offensive lineman and a slew of other talent.
The other thing they have going for them? No program has won more games in the state of Michigan than Muskegon. And if all goes according to plan, they will make some real history in 2014.
Lowell Red Arrows
The Big Reds’ big playoff rival and fellow perennial power Lowell is expected to be a team to watch again this year — despite losing 18 starters.
The Red Arrows won 10 straight games a year ago, including one over Muskegon, before falling to the Big Reds in the playoffs.
Noel Dean enters his 19th season at the helm. During that time, the Red Arrows have never missed the playoffs, never lost an opener and have a raised a ton of money for the community.
Grand Rapids Christian Eagles
The Grand Rapids Christian Eagles are next on the list. Defense is their strength; offense is what we keep your eyes on. They graduated a Division 1-caliber offensive line and some explosive weapons.
But now it’s all about youth — a new running back and a quarterback who hasn’t played the position since he was a freshman.
Two of their non-conference games are against Ford Field runner-ups South Christian and Muskegon.
But it’s the conference schedule that has Don Fellows’ attention, because there are no weeks off in the O.K.-White conference.
South Christian Sailors
The South Christian Sailors have played for state titles in each of the last two seasons, and they should be a player in Division 4 again — especially with Johnny Wassink at quarterback.
Wassink, one of the best quarterbacks in the state, has verbally committed to play college football at Western Michigan University. His coach Mark Tamminga says he should be even better this season.
The first Football Frenzy of the season is Thursday. We’ll be covering 21 games.