1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 2 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 7, 2022

Only 72 teams remain in this season’s MHSAA Football Playoffs. And several of them this weekend took advantage of opportunities to avenge past losses with District and Regional titles on the line.

MI Student AidMost were seeing rivals for the second time this season. Others were running into opponents they’ve faced in playoffs past – and a number of teams are moving on that were stopped the last time around.

Below is a glance at a number of those results as we move another step closer to 8-Player Finals at Northern Michigan University in two weeks and 11-Player Finals at Ford Field the weekend after that.

11-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Caledonia 14, Rockford 13 (2 OT) Only two weeks earlier, Caledonia fell to Rockford 38-15 with a league title and perfect regular season on the line. But the No. 8 Fighting Scots (10-1) avenged by handing the No. 3 Rams (10-1) their lone loss, clinched by Mason McKenzie’s 2-point conversion run on the game’s final play. Click for more from FOX 17.

District Digest Clarkston 49, Davison 40 The No. 5 Cardinals (9-2) got within two of the lead late, but No. 7 Clarkston (9-2) put away the win with Ethan Clark’s sixth touchdown of the game. Grand Ledge 21, Holt 20 The Comets (9-2) scored first and continued to hold Holt off until the end, the final defensive stand coming with just under two minutes to play to avenge a 14-6 Week 3 loss to the Rams (7-4). Macomb Dakota 17, Romeo 0 No. 2 Dakota (11-0) posted its third-straight shutout to finish a season sweep of Romeo (8-3) after also winning their Week 6 meeting 21-14.

11-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 33, Muskegon Mona Shores 21 The No. 4 Rangers (11-0) avenged playoff losses to the No. 7 Sailors (8-3) from the last two seasons, rolling up 30+ points for the fifth straight game. FHC quarterback Justin Osterhouse starred throwing and running. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

District Digest Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse 49, St. Clair Shores Lakeview 7 Not only did L’Anse Creuse (7-4) avenge a 37-0 Week 6 loss to Lakeview (7-4), but the Lancers earned their first District title in doing so. East Lansing 34, Portage Northern 24 The Trojans (8-3) continued to bounce back from a two-game losing streak to end the regular-season, downing the Huskies (7-4) to clinch their third District title in six seasons. Midland 41, Waterford Mott 34 The No. 5 Chemics (10-1) earned their third District title in five seasons by holding off a Mott offense that scored a combined 200 points over its final four games in finishing 8-3.

11-Player Division 3

HEADLINER DeWitt 56, Mount Pleasant 49 (3 OT) This piled a season’s worth of nail-biters into one game, as No. 9 DeWitt (8-3) scored on the final play in regulation to force overtime, the teams traded scores through the first two extra sets of downs and the Panthers scored to start the third overtime and then held the No. 5 Oilers (9-2) scoreless. It was the second-straight season these two met in a District Final, with DeWitt also advancing in 2021. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest Trenton 17, Gibraltar Carlson 7 After Trenton’s 27-6 Week 4 loss to No. 10 Carlson eventually resulted in the two teams sharing the Downriver League title, the Trojans (10-1) nearly flipped the score to claim a District championship. Zeeland West 36, St. Joseph 18 The No. 6 Dux (10-1) also did some avenging after falling in a District opener last season to the No. 8 Bears (9-2), who hadn’t lost since Week 1. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 30, Walled Lake Western 22 Brother Rice reached 5-5 by holding off a Western attack that averaged 42 points per game entering the weekend. The District title was Rice’s second straight. Western ended 9-2 and was ranked No. 2 entering the postseason.

11-Player Division 4

HEADLINER Goodrich 10, Freeland 9 The No. 6 Falcons (8-3) carried a 9-0 lead into the fourth quarter. Goodrich made it 9-7 on a Jace Simerson run early in the final period, setting up an incredible series of moments over the final seconds as the Martians (10-1) blocked a Freeland punt attempt, the ball came to rest with two seconds to play, and Caden Kolanowski kicked the 25-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. See below for more from WJRT.

District Digest Riverview 53, Tecumseh 30 No. 3 Riverview (11-0) slowed down a Tecumseh offense averaging 51 points per game entering the weekend and posted its highest score of the season as well in a matchup of previously-undefeated teams. Tecumseh ended 10-1 and was ranked No. 7. Dearborn Divine Child 30, Livonia Clarenceville 24 (2 OT) The Falcons (9-2) needed a 2-point conversion to send the game to double overtime, and then stopped Clarenceville (6-5) to close out the District title win. Grand Rapids South Christian 35, Hudsonville Unity Christian 20 The No. 2 Sailors (11-0) won their third-straight District title, stopping Unity’s pursuit of a possible fourth in five seasons. The Crusaders, last season’s Division 4 runners-up, finished 6-5.

11-Player Division 5

HEADLINER Flint Hamady 33, Marine City 27 The Hawks (10-1), who were playing in Division 7 just six years ago, defeated a second league champion this playoffs to earn this Division 5 District title – the program’s second ever, but also second in five years to go with the championship won in Division 6 in 2018. Marine City (8-3) was last season’s Division 5 runner-up. See below for more from the D Zone.

District Digest Flat Rock 29, Romulus Summit Academy North 28 The Rams (8-3) earned their first District title with a comeback capped by a 23-yard game-winning field goal by Mitchell Smith with 15.5 seconds to play. Summit finished 8-3, tying its winningest season of 2019. Muskegon Oakridge 30, Belding 8 The No. 4 Eagles’ defense continued to shine, this time stopping a Belding offense averaging 43 points per game. Oakridge moved to 10-1, and the No. 6 Black Knights ended at 9-2. Portland 34, Corunna 28 The No. 10 Cavaliers (8-3) pulled within six of the lead with just under three minutes to play, but got no closer as No. 3 Portland (10-1) clinched its fourth District title in six seasons.

11-Player Division 6

HEADLINER Warren Michigan Collegiate 14, Madison Heights Bishop Foley 0 Last season’s Division 6 runner-up and current No. 4-ranked Michigan Collegiate (10-1) posted one of its most impressive defensive performances of the last two seasons in shutting out a Ventures offense averaging more than 39 points per game. Bishop Foley (10-1) closed its first season reaching double-digit wins and had entered the playoffs ranked No. 9. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

District Digest Gladstone 36, Manistee 14 No. 10 (tied) Gladstone (9-2) not only claimed its first District title since 2008, but earned a chance to avenge a Week 7 loss to No. 3 Negaunee this week. Manistee started 3-3 but closed at 7-4 for its winningest season since 2018. Millington 14, Standish-Sterling 12 Both defenses impressed, but Millington (10-1) made some crunch-time stops in avenging a 28-24 loss to the No. 10 (tied) Panthers (8-2) in Week 5. Grand Rapids West Catholic 50, Constantine 24 Top-ranked West Catholic (10-1) reached 50 points for the second time this season and held No. 8 Constantine (9-2) to almost half of its 47 ppg average entering the weekend.

11-Player Division 7

HEADLINER Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 36, Detroit Central 28 The Falcons (6-5) handed top-ranked Central (10-1) its lone loss to clinch their fourth District title in six seasons. The Trail Blazers were giving up only 4.7 points per game entering the weekend, but St. Mary was able to build a lead and hold on to down a second undefeated opponent over the last three weeks. Click for more from the Monroe News.

District Digest Jackson Lumen Christi 35, Hudson 0 The No. 4 Titans (8-3) shut out a Hudson offense that was averaging 38 points per game, making the No. 3 Tigers (9-2) the sixth of their last seven opponents to score seven points or fewer. Lawton 35, Schoolcraft 21 Last season’s Division 7 runner-up and current No. 10-ranked Lawton (9-2) finished a season sweep of Schoolcraft (7-4) after also defeating the Eagles 49-14 in Week 7 to decide the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title. Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 28, Montrose 14 No. 6 Laker (10-1) finished a repeat District title run and reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2017, ending Montrose’s season at 7-4.

11-Player Division 8

HEADLINER Fowler 28, Beal City 27 The No. 8 Eagles handed No. 3 Beal City its only loss of the season, in doing so clinching its second District title in four seasons. Fowler scored the most points the Aggies (10-1) gave up this fall and came back after trailing by a score at halftime. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest White Pigeon 34, Reading 20 After avenging a Week 5 loss to No. 10 (tied) Centreville to open the playoffs, White Pigeon (8-3) did the same in this District title matchup after losing the No. 9 Reading 33-14 in their season opener. Clarkston Everest Collegiate 42, Marine City Cardinal Mooney 21 The Mountaineers (8-3) avenged a league-title deciding loss, having fallen to No. 10 (tied) Cardinal Mooney 15-8 in Week 6. The District title was Everest’s third straight. Ubly 49, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 14 The top-ranked Bearcats (11-0) earned their fourth-straight District title by limiting an MLS offense averaging 45 ppg entering the weekend. At 9-2, the No. 5 Cardinals finished their winningest season since 2016.

A Grand Ledge receiver hauls in a pass against Holt.

8-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Martin 56, Adrian Lenawee Christian 14 There will be a new Division 1 champion this month, as No. 3 Martin (9-2) ended No. 8 Lenawee Christian’s opportunity to extend a two-season reign. A year ago, the Cougars defeated Martin 36-14 in a Semifinal. But the Clippers found their stride on both sides of the ball in this Regional title game, with the 56 points the most Lenawee Christian (8-3) has given up in a game since switching to 8-player in 2020. Click for more from FOX 17.

Regional Roundup Munising 36, Newberry 22 This matchup was decided by 14 points for the second time this season, but with much more scoring than in the top-ranked Mustangs’ 14-0 win in Week 2. Munising improved to 11-0, while No. 6 Newberry ended 9-2 and its winningest season since 2004. Merrill 68, Breckenridge 28 The No. 2 Vandals (11-0) have won all of their games by at least 22 points this season, that closest win coming over Breckenridge (8-3) in Week 2 before nearly doubling up the margin in this rematch. Brown City 52, Deckerville 6 The No. 9 Green Devils’ 8-player debut almost couldn’t be going better. Brown City (10-1) claimed its first Regional title since 1997, in the process earning an opportunity to avenge its lone loss to Martin. Deckerville, surging at the end with a four-game winning streak, ended at 7-4.

8-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Mendon 46, Colon 44 These neighbors met for the first time in 8-player football, and with the kind of finish hoped for with a long-anticipated matchup. Mendon took the lead after a fourth-down conversion set up Jack McCaw’s go-ahead scoring run with 3:39 to play. The No. 7 Hornets held on to hand No. 2 Colon (10-1) its only defeat and will play in their first Semifinal since 2017. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.  

Regional Roundup Powers North Central 45, Lake Linden-Hubbell 6 The top-ranked Jets (11-0) finished a season sweep of the Lakes (7-4) and ran their three-year winning streak to 35. Marion 14, Gaylord St. Mary 0 The No. 4 Eagles (11-0) are headed to the Semifinals for the third-straight season and have yet to give up a point in the playoffs. No. 10 St. Mary finished its winningest season since 2017 at 8-3. Morrice 34, Au Gres-Sims 14 The No. 9 Orioles piled up 409 yards including 386 on the ground and came back from an early deficit to win their first Regional title since 2019. The No. 6 Wolverines finished 7-2, their only other defeat in Week 2.

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PHOTOS (Top) A Livonia Franklin ball carrier finds an opening Friday against Temperance Bedford. (Middle) A Grand Ledge receiver hauls in a pass against Holt. (Photos by Douglas Bargerstock and Michele Hoffman, respectively.)

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.)