The east-west rivalry is as intense as ever, and the debate will continue on for years to come
Who needs to wait for Ford Field and the state finals to begin the discussion of east versus west?
The discussion is already off and running and the pendulum of power seems to be swinging east, at least early on.
Eastside teams like Detroit Catholic Central and Walled Lake Western took out arguably the top two teams on the west side of the state in the opening weekend with host C.C. rallying to edge Muskegon 15-12 and Western staging a late comeback to slip by Lowell on the road in dramatic fashion, 42-40.
C.C. had some question marks at the skill positions before the season started. Its victory over Muskegon looked even better after this past weekend when Muskegon bounced back and disposed of Grand Rapids Christian, the top-ranked team according to the Grand Rapids Press after the opening weekend. Muskegon defeated Christian, 42-14.
Scout.com’s Allen Trieu, who is based on the west side of the state, was impressed.
“The east side definitely got the better of the west in those early big showdowns” he said. “What Muskegon did in week two (against Christian) gives the Catholic Central win even more weight.”
The west side did get some early licks in the cross-state rivalry when Zeeland West handled Oak Park 42-34 and East Kentwood squeaked past Farmington Hills Harrison 35-28 courtesy of a game-winning touchdown with 46 seconds left.
The east side took another jab at the west when Saline defeated Rockford 37-24 in the season opener.
Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield isn’t convinced the week one contests tell the whole story.
“The battles between the west and the east in this state are always going to be tough,” Fairfield said. “What happened early on is what happened, but I think it’s hard to tell what’s going to transpire the rest of the year. (The west side) can stand toe-to-toe with the east, we just don’t always get the same kind of love or get portrayed as well (by the media).”
The east side-west side debate is good for the state. The rivalry is intense and breeds competition. The fact that coaches like Fairfield out west appear to have a chip on their shoulders going into match-ups with east side teams only makes for better games.
Western coach Mike Zdebski has unique perspective on the rivalry because he once coached the East team in the old East-West All-Star Game (which could be returning soon) and knows how much it means to the participants.
“Beating Lowell was a huge moment for us,” he said. “We were representing the east side with pride. It meant a lot. There’s some natural animosity between the two sides of the state and that’s OK. Everyone has something to prove.”
Zdebski intends on opening up his schedule against a west side opponent from now on.
“What a test it can be every year, either we’ll make a statement for the east or whatever team we play out there will make one for the west,” he remarked.