1st & Goal: 2021 Week 7 in Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 11, 2021

One result we're watching closely with the switch to a new playoff selection format for 11-player football – with no six-wins-and-in – is that every game feels like it matters more.

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It could be a lot, or just a little as teams must push all the way through Week 9 to solidify their spots in the playoff field.

We’ll start understanding that much more over these final few weeks as teams hope their strength of schedule helps boost their playoff hopes. And there were plenty of results from Week 7 that likely will impact how 256 11-player and 32 8-player teams reach the playoffs Oct. 24.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Port Huron 14, Port Huron Northern 7 The Big Reds (6-1) finished a repeat run in the Macomb Area Conference Blue with this winner-take-all victory over the rival Huskies (6-1), extending their streak against Northern to three straight victories. Port Huron took a 14-0 lead into the break and finished with its fewest points given up in a game this season. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.

Watch list Lake Fenton 14, Goodrich 12 The Blue Devils (6-1) ended a three-game losing streak to the Martians (5-2) to create a shared Flint Metro League Stars championship between the two. Goodrich scored late, but Lake Fenton stopped the two-point conversion try to hold onto the lead.

Remember this one Gladwin 48, Clare 42 The Flying G’s (7-0) have earned a share of their first Jack Pine Conference championship since 2002, sending Clare (4-3) into second place, and can clinch their first outright JPC title this week against Beaverton.

More shoutouts Reese 27, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 18 By way of this win, Bad Axe earned a share of the Greater Thumb Conference West title. Laker (5-2) still can make the league end with a three-way championship, adding Reese (6-1) back into the mix, if it defeats the Hatchets this week. Swartz Creek 35, Flushing 28 This combined with Fenton’s 36-34 win over Linden created a shared Metro League Stripes championship between the Dragons and Tigers, both 4-3 overall.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Romeo 7, Sterling Heights Stevenson 0 A stingy Romeo defense put together its best performance of the season when it counted most, earning its second shutout of the fall to create a shared MAC Red championship with the Titans (5-2). Joey Kostrubiec’s fourth-quarter scoring run provided the Bulldogs (6-1) with their winning margin. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Watch list Dearborn Fordson 38, Livonia Churchill 33 Alex Osman’s five first-half touchdown passes helped Fordson reset the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title race. Fordson, Churchill and Belleville all are 5-1 in league play and 6-1 overall heading into this week’s division finales.

Remember this one Madison Heights Bishop Foley 51, Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard 20 The Ventures (6-1) scored their season high in clinching the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional #1 championship after finishing second in the league a year ago.

More shoutouts Harper Woods Chandler Park 18, Warren Michigan Collegiate 16 The Eagles (5-2) came back from a two-point halftime deficit to clinch the Charter School Conference East title against second-place Michigan Collegiate (4-3). Detroit Pershing 22, Detroit Osborn 0 The Doughboys (5-2) posted their third shutout in Detroit Public School League Division 2 play to earn a spot in this week’s Gold championship game, while sending Osborn to 4-3.


HEADLINER Breckenridge 12, Carson City-Crystal 0 The winner-take-all Mid-State Activities Conference championship matchup went to the Huskies, as they posted their second-straight shutout to lock up their sixth-straight league title. Breckenridge (5-2) is 29-0 in league play since joining the MSAC in 2016, and Carson City-Crystal (6-1) has finished league runner-up three of the last four seasons. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Watch list New Lothrop 33, Durand 20 The Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title race has worked itself down to three teams as the Hornets handed Durand (5-2) its second league loss. The Hornets (5-2) and Ovid-Elsie are tied for first at 5-1 in league play with a game to go, and Montrose figures in too at 4-1 since one of its league games was canceled.

Remember this one Olivet 37, Lake Odessa Lakewood 0 The Eagles (5-2) ran their Great Lakes Activities Conference winning streak to 23 games and championship streak to five seasons since last losing a league game and title, to Lakewood (4-3), in 2016.

More shoutouts Holt 26, East Lansing 21 The Rams (5-2) got some serious playoff-point bounce from defeating East Lansing (4-3) as they look to stick in the Division 1 field. Mason 24, Fowlerville 6 The Bulldogs (5-2) finished with a share of a third-straight Capital Area Activities Conference Red title, with Haslett and Williamston also earning pieces of the championship with wins this weekend.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Boyne City 50, Mancelona 18 The Ramblers clinched a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders championship in what was a showdown for the top spot in the league. Boyne City (6-1) can claim the title outright this week against Elk Rapids, while Mancelona (5-1) still can guarantee its winningest season since 2014 with a victory this week against Charlevoix or Week 9 against Maple City Glen Lake. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Traverse City Central 56, Alpena 7 After opening this season with a loss to DeWitt at Michigan Stadium, Central (6-1) has won all of its games by at least 24 points and finished a third-straight perfect run through the Big North Conference.

Remember this one Cadillac 35, Petoskey 0 The Vikings (5-2) are up to a comfortable 10th in Division 4, while Petoskey (3-4) is sitting just outside the Division 3 playoff field at No. 34 after this defeat.

More shoutouts Traverse City St. Francis 42, Sault Ste. Marie 28 The Gladiators (7-0) are up to No. 3 in Division 7 and remain set up for a winner-take-all NMFC Legends meeting with Kingsley in two weeks. Charlevoix 32, Kalkaska 30 The Rayders (6-1) narrowly eluded an upset, but Kalkaska (1-6) has made strides – the Blazers have faced the top three teams in the Leaders over the last three weeks and lost to two of them by only a score.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Saline 35, Temperance Bedford 21 The Hornets secured a share of an eighth-straight Southeastern Conference Red championship with an opportunity to finish the outright title run this week against Dexter. Saline quarterback CJ Carr was a standout with three passing touchdowns and one more rushing. Bedford (5-2) still has a strong chance to reach seven wins for the first time since 2016 with its final two opponents a combined 1-13. Click for more from the Toledo Blade.

Watch list Sand Creek 48, Erie Mason 6 The Aggies (5-2) will need some help from Mason in Week 9 to catch leader Ottawa Lake Whiteford for a share of the Tri-County Conference title, but Sand Creek moved into a tie for second place by avenging last season’s 56-38 loss to the Eagles (4-3).

Remember this one Michigan Center 12, Napoleon 7 The Cardinals (6-1) turned this week’s Napoleon/Addison game from a winner-take-all in the Cascades Conference title race to an opportunity to share the championship three ways if the Pirates can rebound with a win.

More shoutouts Addison 59, Grass Lake 0 Addison (7-0) sealed a share of the Cascades title, its third straight. Dexter 56, Monroe 27 This was an important win for Dexter (5-2), which sits No. 16 in Division 2 with two losses by a combined eight points and two undefeated opponents finishing off the regular-season schedule.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Stevensville Lakeshore 35, St. Joseph 28 The Lancers (6-1) scored 21 fourth-quarter points and the game winners during the final minute to hold on to a share of first place in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference and send St. Joseph (5-2) into third with its second straight one-score defeat. The fourth quarter also featured back-to-back kickoff return touchdowns that made the score 28-28 before Ryan Korfmacher found Trevor Griffiths on a scoring pass as the final 30 seconds ticked off the clock. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Watch list White Pigeon 32, Cassopolis 8 While this game was only for second place in the Southwest 10 Conference, White Pigeon (6-1) held on to a top-10 spot in Division 8.

Remember this one Mattawan 19, Battle Creek Lakeview 14 The Wildcats’ only other win this fall came by forfeit, but they have a chance to finish strong after almost taking Lakeview (4-3) completely out of the SMAC title race.

More shoutouts Kalamazoo United 37, Watervliet 0 United (5-2) made a move into the top half of the Division 5 playoff list and remains one of two teams undefeated in Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore play after shutting down a Watervliet offense that averaged 32 points per game during its 4-2 start. Vicksburg 35, Plainwell 6 The Bulldogs (6-1) moved up to No. 5 in Division 4 after winning this matchup for second place in the Wolverine Conference.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Menominee 34, Marquette 13 The Maroons broke a three-game losing streak against Marquette and in doing so earned a share of the Great Northern Conference championship, their first since 2016. Menominee (5-2) went up 20-6 by halftime and locked down an offense that was averaging 44 points per game. Marquette (5-2) still will receive a share of the league title if Kingsford defeats Menominee in Week 9.

Watch list Negaunee 31, Gladstone 30 The Miners (6-1) have been on a run since losing to Iron Mountain by two in the season opener, but just got past Gladstone (3-4) to keep the streak intact.

Remember this one Iron Mountain 28, Hancock 18 The Mountaineers (4-3) earned a boost up to No. 8 in Division 8 while putting Hancock (3-4) in a tough position trying to reach the Division 5 playoff field.

More shoutouts Ishpeming Westwood 38, L'Anse 6 The Patriots (6-1) secured a spot in a possible Week 9 winner-takes-at-least-a-share title game against Negaunee in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper. Calumet 31, Houghton 7 The above-mentioned Week 9 Copper game isn’t necessarily winner-take-all as Calumet (5-2) now finishes with the bottom two teams in the league and is guaranteed a share as well with wins in both.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Muskegon 49, Muskegon Mona Shores 28 The Big Reds (6-1) are back on top in this rivalry and back on top in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green after riding a big defensive touchdown just before halftime into a dominant second half. Mona Shores (5-2) led 21-14 during the first half before the big-time Big Reds finish. Click for more from CatchMark SportsNet.

Watch list Rockford 17, Caledonia 14 The Rams (7-0) took a major step toward an O-K Red title and perfect regular season by handing Caledonia (6-1) its lone loss. Rockford finishes with opponents that are a combined 3-11.

Remember this one Hudsonville Unity Christian 40, Grand Rapids West Catholic 14 Over two weeks we’ve watched the O-K Blue sort out from four first-place teams to Unity (7-0) on top alone with two league games to play and this the Crusaders’ closest so far.

More shoutouts Grand Rapids Christian 24, Byron Center 10 The O-K White race just got reshuffled a bit with the Eagles (4-3) back in the mix and Byron Center (6-1) now taking on leader Forest Hills Central this week just to keep a shared title possible. Spring Lake 27, Coopersville 20 The Lakers (6-1) and West Catholic (6-1) will be rooting this week for Coopersville (5-2), which moves on to take on Unity this week and can turn the Blue back into a three-team league race.


HEADLINER Martin 28, Mendon 20 The Clippers (7-0) won a first-place showdown in the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Tier 1 to clinch a share of the conference championship. Martin significantly slowed a Mendon offense averaging 48 points per game and can clinch the title outright next week against Marcellus, while Mendon (5-2) will face Gobles and hope for some help from the Wildcats. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.

Watch list Indian River Inland Lakes 49, Pellston 6 The Bulldogs (7-0) still need one more win to clinch a share of the Ski Valley Conference title and still have second-place Gaylord St. Mary coming up in Week 9. But sending Pellston (6-1) also into second place in impressive fashion should turn a lot of eyes toward the No. 6 team in Division 1.

Remember this one Tekonsha 36, Waldron 14 Tekonsha (5-2) finished second in its league the last two seasons but clinched a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association B title with this win while sending Waldron (5-2) into a tie for second place.

More shoutouts Suttons Bay 45, Marion 0 By handing Marion (6-1) its lone loss and in a big way, the Norsemen (7-0) made a statement with the playoffs coming up. Pickford 34, Newberry 28 (OT) The Panthers (6-1) maintained control of their title hopes, while sending Newberry (5-2) nearly out of contention in the Great Lakes Eight Conference East.

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PHOTO Muskegon pulled away from rival Mona Shores during the second half of Friday's 49-28 win. (Photo courtesy of Local Sports Journal.)

Inspired by Dad's Memory, Lawrence's Vasquez Emerges After Family Losses

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

January 16, 2024

LAWRENCE — While COVID-19 affected many students in different ways, it definitely made an impact on Austin Vasquez.

Southwest CorridorAs a freshman at Lawrence High School during the pandemic, Vasquez lost his grandmother Theresa Phillips to cancer on March 25, 2021.

Two days later, on March 27, his father Tom Vasquez, died of complications from COVID. And on April 19 that spring, his grandfather Darrell “Gene” Phillips also lost his fight against the coronavirus.

“There is no way (to cope). You just have to keep on moving,” Austin said. “It’s what (my dad) would want me to do.

“He was my biggest (influence) in sports. He talked to me about never giving up – leave everything you’ve got.”

That is just what Vasquez is doing in the midst of his three-sport senior year.

He is the top wrestler at the school, competing at 175 pounds with a goal of making the MHSAA Tournament. He was a versatile contributor on the football field this past fall, and he’s planning to join the baseball team this spring.

Vasquez works on gaining the advantage in a match against Mendon. He’s 8-3 with six pins on the mat this winter after a busy summer of camps and tournaments. Those experiences helped lessen the nerves he’d felt during matches previously, and now he’s wrestling with an outlook of “everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

And Vasquez said he feels his dad’s presence as he prepares for competition.

“Before every match, before every game, I just think about what my dad would be telling me,” he said. “Everything he’s always told me has taught me to get better. 

“In life, I still remember everything he taught me. He was definitely a great man, and I want to be like him someday.”

Wrestling also has made Vasquez more in tune with his health.

His sophomore season he went from 230 pounds to 215, and by his junior year was down to his current 175.

“I just wanted to be healthier, not just for wrestling,” he said. “I started going to the gym every night, watched my calories, and from there grew (taller).

“Now I’m at 6-(foot-)2, and I don’t know how that happened,” he laughed.

Lawrence coach Henry Payne said Vasquez always has a positive attitude and helps the other wrestlers in the program.

“When he notices a kid next to him doing a move wrong, he’ll go over and show him the right way,” Payne said. “We have a lot of young kids that this is their first year, and he’s been a good coach’s helper.”

The coach’s helper gig will continue after graduation.

"Next year we’re hoping to open up a youth program here, and I got him and an alumni that graduated last year and is helping the varsity team this year (Conner Tangeman) to take over the youth program for us,” Payne said.

 From left: Lawrence wrestling coach Henry Payne, athletic director John Guillean and football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. On the football team, Vasquez was a jack of all trades.

“He started at guard, went to tight end, went to our wingback, went to our running back. He was trying to get the quarterback spot,” football coach Derek Gribler laughed.

Vasquez said there is no other feeling like being on the field, especially during home games.

“Wrestling is my main sport, but I’d do anything to go back and play football again,” he said. “I just love it.”

Although the football team struggled through a 1-8 season, “It was still a really fun season,” Vasquez said. “Everybody was super close. Most of us never really talked before, but we instantly became like a family.”

Vasquez had the support of his mother, Heather, and four older sisters: Makaylah, Briahna, Ahlexis and Maryah. He also found his school family helped him get through the end of his freshman year.

“(My friends) were always there for me when everything was going on,” he said. “I took that last month off school because it was too hard to be around people at that time.

"Every single one of them reached out and said, ‘Hey, I know you’re going through a rough time.’ It really helped to hear that and get out of the house.”

Vasquez also was a standout on the football field. The family connection between Vasquez and Lawrence athletic director John Guillean goes back to the senior’s youth.

“I was girls basketball coach, so I coached his sisters,” Guillean said. “I remember him when he was pretty young. I knew the family pretty well. I knew his dad. He was pretty supportive and was there for everything.”

Vasquez said that freshman year experience has made him appreciate every day, and he gives the following advice: “Every time you’re wrestling, it could be your last time on the mat or last time on the field. Treat every game and every match as if it’s going to be your last. If you’re committed to the sport, take every chance you have to help your team be successful.”

Gribler has known Vasquez since he was in seventh grade and, as also the school’s varsity baseball coach, will work with Vasquez one more time with the senior planning to add baseball as his spring sport.

“When we talk about Tiger Pride, Austin’s a kid that you can put his face right on the logo. His work ethic is just unbelievable,” Gribler said. “Everything he does is with a smile. He could be having the worst day of his life, and he’d still have a smile on his face. He pushes through. It’s tough to do and amazing to see.”

The coach – who also starred at Lawrence as an athlete – noted the small community’s ability to rally around Vasquez and his family. Lawrence has about 150 students in the high school.

“It goes beyond sports,” Gribler said. “Austin knows when he needs something he can always reach out and we’ll have his back, we’ll have his family’s back. It’s not so much about winning as it is about the kids.”

Vasquez is already looking ahead to life after high school. He attends morning courses at Van Buren Tech, studying welding, and returns to the high school for afternoon classes. 

“I’d like to either work on the pipeline as a pipeline welder or be a lineman,” he said, adding, “possibly college. I would like to wrestle in college, but let’s see how this year goes.

“I’m ready to get out, but it’s going to be hard to leave this all behind.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence senior Andrew Vasquez, right, wrestles against Hartford this season. (2) Vasquez works on gaining the advantage in a match against Mendon. (3) From left: Lawrence wrestling coach Henry Payne, athletic director John Guillean and football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (4) Vasquez also was a standout on the football field. (Wrestling and football photos courtesy of the Lawrence athletic department. Headshots by Pam Shebest.)