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Chix change conference, still aim high

5:35 PM, Aug. 08, 2012 EDT

ZEELAND, Mich. (WZZM) - The 2011 season ended with disappointment for Zeeland East. Holland quarterback Corey Willis ran wild in the district finals at Zeeland Stadium propelling the Dutch to a 42-21 win.

The offseason brought further disappointment for Zeeland East when it learned it was being moved out of the O-K Green with its natural Holland-Zeeland rivalries, and into the O-K Black where it becomes Ottawa County's only member.

The move caused hard feelings throughout the community but head coach Derek Pennington says it's time to make the best of the situation.

"It is what it is. It's done now. We didn't exactly agree or prefer the realignment. It happened. Now it's here. We're in the Black and obviously we're playing those games."

The Chix will meet two of their former conference rivals to open the season. They face Holland Christian and Zeeland West in weeks one and two.

Pennington has to replace much of the talent that helped the team win nine games last year. Gone are quarterback Casey VanHoof, receivers Josh Snyder, Tanner Bryant, Jordan Hill and Brandon Jackson. But two top running backs return in senior Josh Blauwkamp and junior Spencer Viening and senior Patrick Banks is back to anchor the defensive line.

Zeeland East enters its fifth year under Pennington. The Chix have won 20 games over the past two seasons, an impressive number considering the program won only one game in the three years prior to his arrival. Look for the Chix' spread offense to rebuild quickly.

Key games for the Chix include the week two matchup with defending division four state champion Zeeland West, along with non-league games with Hudsonville and Forest Hills Central plus the end-of-season showdown with Muskegon.

Little known fact: When the Chix meet O-K Black foe Kenowa Hills in week five, Pennington will be matched against the school at which his wife Katie is the principal.

Follow the Chix all season on WZZM's "13 On Your Sidelines" with Tom Clyde, Dan Harland and Brent Ashcroft.