Zeeland West rolls up over 350 rushing yards, tops West Catholic in battle of defending champs
GRAND RAPIDS – Zeeland West’s football team thumbed its nose at what the Dux feared was going to be a three-headed monster of a schedule.
Now it’ll be interesting to see how far a rebuilt Zeeland West team can go after racing past Grand Rapids West Catholic 38-22 in Friday’s much-anticipated match-up of defending state champions.
Zeeland West, last year’s Division 4 state champ, upped its winning streak to 17 consecutive games in snapping West Catholic’s 13-game winning streak. The Dux opened the season with wins over Cedar Springs and Mona Shores prior to beating the host Falcons, winners of three straight Division 5 state titles.
Dux coach John Shillito said the first three games were likely as tough as Zeeland West has faced in the last decade. Particularly with a young Dux club returning only one starter on defense and three on offense.
"We had a great senior class last year that closed a lot of doors," Shillito said of fielding a lineup of new faces this fall. "We’re growing. These three games have tested us; they’ve been wars. We called it the three-headed monster. Cedar Springs was great and Mona Shores is talented. We thought about completing the trifecta, the toughest opening schedule we’ve had."
What was supposed to be a classic match-up of two of West Michigan’s winningest programs since 2011 turned into the Dux leading 22-7 at the half and 30-14 margin in the last minute of the third quarter.
Zeeland West quarterback Hunter Blauwkamp ran 46 yards for one touchdown and hit Connor Chupalio for a 24-yard score. Blauwkamp said it’s too early to think about state titles, but the Dux will be competitive.
"If we keep improving, we be can one of the better versions (of former teams) we’ve had," he said.
The Dux wound up outrushing West Catholic 367-183 while finishing with 406 total yards. Tucker Martinez had a 40-yard touchdown run while Al DeLarosa added a 23-yard touchdown.
The two teams have dominated West Michigan football. Zeeland West has now won 42 of its last 44 games and is 72-8 since 2010. The Dux won state titles in 2011 and last season.
In addition to its three consecutive state titles, West Catholic has won at least 10 games in seven straight seasons, going 79-16 over that stretch. The Falcons had won 28 of their last 30 games prior to Friday and haven’t endured a losing season since 2002. The program has made 13 consecutive playoffs.
First-year West Catholic coach Joe Hyland said Zeeland West was an outstanding early season test.
"Overall, they played good football and I don’t think we did," he said. "That’s not taking anything away from them. From our perspective, on their worst night they are going to be tough to beat. But we came out and did some things in errors that were tough to overcome."
West Catholic did get an outstanding showing from senior quarterback David Fox, who had touchdown runs of 45 and 21 yards while tossing a 23-yard scoring pass to Sam Neville. The starting quarterback on the last two state champions, Fox hit 11-of-17 passes for 84 yards.
Shillito said the toughest thing for a club which returns only four starters is learning to listen to the coaches.
"They have to have faith in what they’re being taught when the bullets are flying," he said. "This was the first game we struggled to run off tackle. That’s why our quarterback and fullbacks (DeLarosa and Martinez) needed to come up big."