ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Zeeland East pulled away late in front of a huge crowd to win the Bird Bowl for the first time since 2012, and finish the regular season undefeated.
After the 28-8 win, the only question is if Zeeland East (9-0) have to play Zeeland West (6-3) again next week in the playoffs. Chix Quarterback Keegan Ensing would prefer that answer to be no.
“I hope we don’t play the same game, just because it’s nice to only play them once,” he said. “But if we do, we’ll get at it again.”
When Zeeland East last beat the Dux during the regular season in 2012, Zeeland West got payback in the playoffs with a 46-0 win.
This year’s playoff pairings will be announced on Sunday.
For now, Zeeland East will celebrate a dominating defensive performance, that held Zeeland West to a single score.
“We played tremendous defense against the T all night,” Chix Coach Derek Pennington said. The Dux had averaged 46 points per game over the past three weeks.
On offense, the Chix were led by Ensing who threw one touchdown in the first half, then ran for two more in the second half.
“Keegan Ensing made some incredible plays, just out of nothing,” Pennington said. “They were blitzing us and he would run around and make plays.”
Ensing passed the praise onto his teammates.
“The line gave me a lot of time,” Ensing said. “There were some good catches, I did not throw some good balls, but they made some great catches.”
Chix Running Back Josh Fusco caught Ensing’s touchdown pass and scored one on the ground to seal the win in the fourth quarter.
The Dux only points came 26 seconds before halftime, when Max Hecht jumped into the end zone for a 2-yard score. The two-point conversion gave Zeeland West an 8-7 halftime lead.
Zeeland West took the lead back 14-8 with 7:14 left in the 3rd quarter on an Ensing 2-yard run, and never looked back.
Both sides of Zeeland Stadium were packed for the Bird Bowl, forcing fans to stand wherever they could find a spot – including behind the end zones.
“Unbelievable atmosphere,” Pennington said. “What a great night for the community.”
The win also secured the O-K Green conference title for Zeeland East. It’s the third outright conference championship in program history.