GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Only four schools have won four consecutive MHSAA state championships in football; Grand Rapids West Catholic and Muskegon Catholic Central are looking to join that exclusive group.
The Falcons and Crusaders have captured three straight state titles and will be in pursuit of their fourth this weekend at Ford Field in Detroit.
Muskegon Catholic Central (13-0) will face Ottawa Lake Whiteford (13-0) Friday at 10 a.m. in Division 8, while West Catholic (11-2) meets Menominee (12-1) Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Division 5.
MUSKEGON CATHOLIC CENTRAL VS. OTTAWA LAKE WHITEFORD
The Crusaders have the third most MHSAA championships in state history with 11; their sights are now set on No. 12.
Muskegon Catholic Central owns an impressive 51-4 record for the past four seasons.
“It’s a good experience for the kids and the program, going for a fourth straight, and we just hope to go down there and execute on Friday,” Crusaders coach Steve Czerwon said. “This is a really focused group, a veteran group, and we’ve come to play each week this year.”
West Catholic has claimed the past three state crowns under former coach Dan Rohn, but hasn’t a missed a beat under first-year head coach Joe Hyland, en route to its fifth straight appearance in the state finals.
GRAND RAPIDS WEST CATHOLIC VS. MENOMINEE
The Falcons have won 10 or more games eight years in a row.
“This season has been remarkable,” Hyland said. “We’ve had to go through some really good teams to get here and I think our kids have been resilient in how they’ve approached every week and all the different challenges that we’ve faced and the opponents we’ve seen.
“They’ve stepped up and taken their approach and preparation to another level. We ask a lot of our kids and they’ve done a great job responding with effort and attitude. I’m proud of them.”
West Catholic will square off against a familiar postseason foe. The Falcons and Menominee have met seven times and West Catholic owns a 6-1 record. They started their three-year run with a 27-14 win over the Maroons in the 2013 title game.
“These two teams have a history and they are going to be very motivated to get over the hump against us,” Hyland said. “I think that helps us to hopefully match their motivation and go out and play our very best to get this thing done. It’s going to be a heck of a game with two good teams on the field that night. We’re looking forward to it.”
Hyland said Menominee will present a stern test.
“They are a really good team,” he said. “They do a lot of things that can hurt you in each phase of the game so we have to be crisp and put our best effort together.”
MUSKEGON VS. ORCHARD LAKE ST. MARY’S
Two other area teams will vie for state titles as well.
Muskegon (12-1) takes on Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-4) in Division 3 on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. while Grand Rapids Catholic Central (12-1) meets unbeaten Detroit Country Day (13-0) in Division 4 on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Big Reds haven’t won a state title since 2008, but finished state runner-up three years in a row (2012-2014).
They lost to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 7-0 in the 2014 title game.
“They are loaded in the backfield,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “They have three or four backs who run strong and hard and all of them are 200-pound plus, and they have a big offensive line. They have a very sound defense and don’t give up a lot of points.”
The Big Reds will rely on their talented quarterback tandem of Kalil Pimpleton and La’darius Jefferson.
“I think our playmakers have to make plays,” Fairfield said. “We have to make plays in space and catch a break here and there. Defensively, we have to get them behind the sticks.”
Fairfield said good fundamental football has carried the Big Reds to the title game.
“You don’t beat teams like East Grand Rapids and Byron Center just based on reckless football,” he said. “You have to play fundamental football, stay disciplined and take care of the football and those are things we’ve done very well I think during the playoff run.”
GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL VS. DETROIT COUNTRY DAY
Catholic Central is in the title game for the first time since 2010, when it defeated Williamston 27-23 to win a Division 4 championship.
Cougars’ coach Todd Kolster attributes his team’s tournament success to a trio of intangibles.
“An unbelievable amount of work, a great focus and a commitment by our kids,” Kolster said. “When you look at these type of runs and the teams that do this, those three things come to my mind of why I’m so proud of them. They’ve put in the time and persevered and they have an opportunity to play in the final game of the year.”
Catholic Central will tangle with a Detroit Country Day’s squad that is chalked full of talented playmakers on offense.
“No question it’s the best team we’ve seen,” Kolster said. “Very athletic and great team speed. They have a mix of size up front and skill players and they have eight kids that can touch the ball and do great things with it. Despite the magnitude of the game and a great opponent, we have to keep the same focus and everybody has to do their job.”
Stay with us for complete coverage of the finals at Ford Field. The Football Frenzy crew is headed to Detroit on Friday and Saturday and will bring you highlights on 24 Hour News 8.