1st & Goal: 2022 Week 3 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 9, 2022

With Labor Day behind us, all Michigan high schools are back in session – and just in time for league competition to begin for several conferences across the state.

MI Student AidLeague matchups make up most of our “games to watch” as we prep for Week 3, with the most intriguing from every region highlighted below.

Games are Friday unless noted. Click for the full schedule from MHSAA.com and check out the broadcast schedule from MHSAA.tv.

Bay & Thumb

Armada (2-0) at Croswell-Lexington (2-0)

The way this season has begun – and the way last season ended – makes this matchup look like a potential title-decider in the Blue Water Area Conference. Croswell-Lexington was last year champion, thanks in part to holding off co-runner-up Armada 30-14 in the final game on the league schedule. The Pioneers have outscored their first two opponents this fall by a combined 95-14, while Armada made a loud statement immediately with a 28-27 season-opening win over Marine City, last season’s Division 5 runner-up.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Marlette (2-0) at Ubly (2-0), Grand Blanc (1-1) at Saginaw Heritage (2-0), Traverse City Central (1-1) at Davison (1-1), Hemlock (1-1) at Millington (2-0).

Greater Detroit

Livonia Churchill (1-1) at Belleville (2-0)

Belleville is off to another strong start this fall coming off last season’s Division 1 championship. But tonight’s matchup could help the Tigers do one better this fall in their repeat attempt. Churchill last season won the Week 3 meeting 28-21, handing Belleville its first regular-season loss since 2016 and only loss of 2021. But the Chargers must bounce back quickly to make this game another classic after seeing a seven-game winning streak against Westland John Glenn end with a 21-20 loss last week.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Clarkston (1-1) at Rochester Adams (2-0), Utica Eisenhower (2-0) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-0), DeWitt (2-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (1-1), Warren Michigan Collegiate (2-0) at Detroit Country Day (2-0).


Fowler (2-0) at Bath (2-0)

The Bees are off to their best start since 2017, already avenging one loss from when the team finished 2-7 a year ago. But this matchup could tell a lot more about where Bath is headed in 2022. The Bees fell to Fowler 47-14 last season and will be seeking to break a five-game losing streak to the Eagles. Fowler has opened with wins over 2021 playoff qualifiers Carson City-Crystal and Petersburg Summerfield, both by 20-plus points.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Saginaw Nouvel (2-0) at Ithaca (1-1), Fowlerville (1-1) at Mason (2-0), Pewamo-Westphalia (1-1) at Dansville (2-0), Durand (2-0) at Ovid-Elsie (1-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

St. Ignace (2-0) at Frankfort (2-0)

The Saints own one of the best rebound stories of the early going after finishing 2-7 a year ago and winning one game in 2020. They’ve outscored their first opponents by a combined 74-6. Granted, both opponents are winless so far this season and were winless last year as well, but Frankfort will give St. Ignace a better idea how it measures up in what should be a super-competitive Northern Michigan Football League Legacy division. The Panthers have followed their best finish (6-4) since 2017 with a pair of big victories including last week over 2021 playoff qualifier Mancelona.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mount Pleasant (2-0) at Cadillac (1-1), Boyne City (2-0) at Grayling (1-1), Charlevoix (2-0) at Mancelona (1-1), Bay City Western (1-1) at Traverse City West (1-1).

Southeast & Border

Napoleon (2-0) at Manchester (2-0), Saturday

This Saturday showdown presents some interesting possibilities as both look to rise in the Cascades Conference. Napoleon was a contender into October last season before losing the final two games on the league schedule, but was in play in part thanks to a 20-18 win over Manchester in Week 3. The Flying Dutchmen have factored into the race a couple of times since their league title season of 2015, and edged reigning Cascades champion Addison 29-26 last week to re-enter the mix.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grosse Ile (2-0) at Milan (1-1), Hanover-Horton (1-1) at Addison (1-1), Hastings (1-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (0-2), Centreville (1-1) at Sand Creek (1-1).

Southwest Corridor

Lawton (2-0) at Constantine (1-1)

Lawton is off to another solid start coming off last season’s run to the Division 7 championship game, and additionally the Blue Devils have won 12 straight regular-season games and 25 of their last 26. All but two of those 25 wins were by double digits – with the lone loss to Schoolcraft in 2020 – but Lawton also hasn’t played Constantine since 2017. The Falcons saw their 15-game regular-season winning streak end with a 22-20 loss to reigning Division 8 champion Hudson last week. Before that, no regular-season opponent had come within single digits of catching Constantine since the second game of 2020.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Schoolcraft (2-0) at Kalamazoo United (2-0), Battle Creek Lakeview (1-0) at Portage Central (0-2), Plainwell (2-0) at Sturgis (1-1), Allegan (2-0) at Berrien Springs (2-0).

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone (2-0) at Menominee (1-1)

The Maroons regained the Great Northern Conference title last season, sharing it with Kingsford, but earned that claim also because they were able to survive a 35-34 challenge from Gladstone. Menominee has won three straight in this series, but is coming off a rough outing last week against an opponent from Illinois. Gladstone, meanwhile, is off to its third 2-0 start in four seasons but looking to get to 3-0 for the first time since 2017. There’s a little more reason for excitement this time though – both of those first two wins came against 2021 league champions.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Houghton (2-0) at Iron Mountain (1-1), Cheboygan (1-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-0), Ishpeming Westwood (0-2) at Calumet (0-2). SATURDAY Gaylord (2-0) at Marquette (0-2).

West Michigan

Zeeland East (0-2) at Zeeland West (2-0)

On first glance, this might not seem like much more than the next chapter in a rivalry. But there is some near-uniqueness to this rivalry – it’s one of the few in Michigan where the schools are next door to each other. West has won the last four meetings, including a matchup during the 2019 playoffs, and has rocketed to wins over Stevensville Lakeshore and Cedar Springs – two playoff teams from last season. East’s losses, however, also have come to 2021 playoff qualifiers – Williamston and Spring Lake – and the Chix lost to the Lakers by just seven points.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (2-0) at Byron Center (1-1), East Kentwood (1-1) at Grand Haven (1-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (2-0) at Spring Lake (1-1), Ludington (2-0) at Fremont (2-0).


Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-0) at Norway (2-0)

Two-time reigning Division 2 champion Powers North Central has set the pace lately in the Great Lakes Conference West. But the league is full of contenders. The Jets are ranked No. 1 this week, but Crystal Falls Forest Park is No. 3, Lake Linden-Hubbell is No. 5 and Norway could make its way into the Division 1 top 10 with a win over the Lakes. The Knights won last season’s meeting 30-8 and have opened this fall outscoring its first two opponents by a combined 102-12. Lake Linde-Hubbell’s margin is a similar 119-30.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) at Pittsford (2-0), Bridgman (2-0) at Mendon (1-1), Merrill (2-0) at Fulton (1-1). SATURDAY Marion (2-0) at Mesick (2-0).

Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: A trio of Muskegon defenders bring down an East Kentwood ball carrier during the Big Reds’ 20-14 season-opening win. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

July 10, 2024

CJ Nightingale's family values, small-town upbringing and Christian faith steered the Mendon native into a career coaching college football.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosNightingale, a 2010 Mendon High School graduate, is busily preparing for his first season as Belhaven University's eighth football coach. He was officially named the Blazers' head coach seven months ago, on Jan. 1.

Belhaven, a Division III school located in Jackson, Mississippi, competes in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Nightingale credits his love of coaching to his father Chris Nightingale and grandfather Charles Nightingale.

"It all started with my dad and grandfather. At one time they were both involved in coaching, and their general love for sports wore off on me," CJ Nightingale said.

Once CJ reached high school, his interest in athletics only intensified thanks to several people who made a big impact on him.

"I had the most wonderful experience attending school and participating in Mendon athletics,” Nightingale said. “We didn't always have the better athletes, but we were successful because of all the time and commitment put in by our coaches, teachers, administration along with parental and community support. Success is the result of many people who focus on the same cause."

Nightingale lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Mendon, earning four varsity letters in all three sports. He was named the St. Joseph Valley League's MVP in all three sports his senior year, and Mendon earned league titles in all three during Nightingale's senior year as well.

As a starting quarterback and defensive back his sophomore year, Nightingale led Mendon to the 2007 Division 7 football championship with the Hornets' 20-0 win over Traverse City St. Francis. Nightingale still holds the state record for career interceptions with 27.

Mendon had finished the 2006 season 3-6. A losing season remains rare in Mendon, and Nightingale stated it fueled the Hornets' title run the following season.

"I think losing is more difficult in football than in any other sport because of how much work goes into preparing for a season,” Nightingale recalled. “We were a very young team in 2006 and got punched in the mouth. It wasn't the best feeling, but it was a real learning experience and served as a big driving force that next season.

"All the hard times we endured the previous year served as a byproduct for our success in 2007. That team was unselfish, and not one player on the team cared who got the stats or accolades."

At Mendon, Nightingale played for legendary coach John Schwartz in football, David Swanwick in basketball and Glen Samson in baseball.

Lessons from Schwartz – a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame – and Samson have especially stuck with Nightingale into adult life and his own coaching career.

"Coach Schwartz had a way of getting everyone on the same page not just on the field, but he taught you how to be the best version of yourself off the field in every-day life. Coach Samson knew how to get his players in the right positions on the diamond to make us successful," Nightingale said.

"The environment at Mendon solidified my desire to become a coach and teacher. The best leaders are also the best teachers, and when you are surrounded by people like that it makes a big difference."

Nightingale attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where he lettered in football four years as a defensive back and return specialist. During Nightingale's career, the Thunder posted a combined record of 34-8 and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs when he was a freshman.

After graduating college, Nightingale taught history and spent two years as the varsity football coach at Richmond High School in Indiana. In 2016 he secured his first collegiate coaching job at Greenville University (Ill.) as a defensive backs coach, where he spent one season. He then served as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Indiana Wesleyan University beginning in 2017 before returning to his alma mater Wheaton in 2019 as the Thunder's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. Nightingale coached 24 all-conference players, 10 all-region performers and seven All-Americans over his four seasons at Wheaton, and the Thunder made the Division III playoffs all four years.

The head football coaching position at Belhaven became available in December 2023 when previous coach Blaine McCorkle moved on to Division 1 Northwestern State (La.). Nightingale applied and went through a three-week interview process before being selected as the program’s next head coach.

"I truly feel like God has called my wife Shanel and I and our family here for a reason. We are going to pour into Belhaven as deeply as we can and see what life brings us,” CJ Nightingale said. “As a college football coach, you have the unique chance to pour into your players spiritually, academically, athletically and socially. That's what is really special about this profession."

Belhaven's program has enjoyed a lot of success, especially the past three seasons with a combined 24-7 record, including a 9-2 finish last fall.

"I am very fortunate to be taking over a strong program here at Belhaven. You don't sustain success, but rather you must be able to build on it," Nightingale said. "We are excited about this season after a great spring. This group of coaches and players got a lot done these past six months. We have had a lot of guys here on campus all summer working to get better. There are lot of goals in front of us that haven't been achieved yet. Two of those goals are to go undefeated in conference play and host a playoff game.”

CJ and Shanel have three children, including 5-year old daughter Charlotte, 3-year old son Trey and 14-month old daughter Coco. They are expecting a fourth child in mid-September.

2024 Made In Michigan

June 28: E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Mendon’s CJ Nightingale (2) celebrates during his team’s 2007 championship win over Traverse City St. Francis at Ford Field; at right Nightingale is pictured with his wife Shanel and children Charlotte, Trey and Coco. (Middle) Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. (Family photo courtesy of CJ Nightingale.)