1st & Goal: 2022 Week 4 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 16, 2022

If last week’s top matchups could be considered tough to gauge beforehand, this week’s are a breeze to forecast.

MI Student AidOf the 18 teams listed below in our best-expected games from every region, 13 are ranked in the top 10 of their respective divisions by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. Our “Bay & Thumb” highlighted game featured two top-six Division 8 teams, and three more of those 13 are top-ranked with our best 8-player matchup featuring two teams that played in Finals last fall.

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

Bay & Thumb

Ubly (3-0) at Harbor Beach (3-0)

The Bearcats continue to thrive as one of the strongest small-school programs in the state, as last season’s only loss came in the Division 8 Semifinals and after they were Division 8 runners-up in 2020 and also made the Semifinals in 2019. Ubly seemed to take over as the Greater Thumb Conference East powerhouse from Harbor Beach, but didn’t truly shake the Pirates until sweeping them last year 50-33 during the regular season and 35-6 in a playoff opener. Harbor Beach should put up another challenge this time; the Pirates didn’t give up a point this season until last week. Both teams have two wins over 2021 playoff teams.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Fenton (2-1) at Swartz Creek (3-0), Clare (2-1) at Gladwin (3-0), Saginaw Heritage (3-0) at Davison (2-1), North Branch (3-0) at Almont (3-0).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King (1-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (1-2)

This annual matchup between Detroit Public School League powers – now back in the same division – will be a breakout game for the winner. Both have suffered losses to Indiana powerhouses – Cass Tech to Carmel and King to Indianapolis Warren Central – and both rebounded to open the league schedule with 60-point shutouts. King won both matchups with Cass last season, but by only seven and six points. As usual, this likely will be just the first of two meetings this fall, with the next in the PSL playoffs.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Clarkston (2-1) at West Bloomfield (3-0), South Lyon East (3-0) at Walled Lake Western (3-0), River Rouge (2-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (1-2), Carleton Airport (3-0) at Grosse Ile (3-0).


DeWitt (2-1) at East Lansing (3-0)

This has been the matchup not just in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue but usually all of Greater Lansing since DeWitt moving into the league in 2018. The Panthers have won four of the five matchups since, including two in the playoffs and 49-14 last season. This should see a much closer result. East Lansing’s run so far this fall includes two wins over likely league title contenders, Portage Central and Fenton. DeWitt’s two wins also came against league title contenders in Haslett and Portland, and the young Panthers continued to show they’re learning quickly in last week’s overtime loss at Detroit Catholic Central.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mason (3-0) at Williamston (3-0), Traverse City Central (1-2) at Mount Pleasant (3-0), Lansing Waverly (3-0) at Grand Ledge (2-1), Lake Odessa Lakewood (2-1) at Perry (2-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Kingsley (2-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (3-0)

Don’t let the Stags’ one-point loss to Gaylord in Week 2 take any of the dazzle off this Northern Michigan Football League Legends clash. Kingsley’s only other regular-season losses over the last five seasons were to St. Francis, 38-30 last season and then in 2018. The Gladiators have lit up the scoreboard with 42 or more points every game this fall, and they own an impressive 42-35 Week 2 win over Jackson Lumen Christi.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (3-0) at Manton (2-1), Beal City (3-0) at Lake City (2-1), Elk Rapids (3-0) at Charlevoix (3-0), Grand Blanc (1-2) at Traverse City West (1-2).

Southeast & Border

Adrian (2-1) at Tecumseh (3-0)

We featured Tecumseh earlier this week as that team is off to a grand start as it seeks its first winning season since 2013. Adrian is in a similar spot, having won two games a year ago, with those victories breaking a previous losing streak that stretched back to 2017. After falling to Ada Forest Hills Eastern in their opener, the Maples have won by 27 and 31, respectively, the last two weeks. The winner of this matchup may provide the toughest challenge to Chelsea in the Southeastern Conference White.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Union City (2-1) at Reading (3-0), Erie Mason (3-0) at Petersburg Summerfield (2-1), Saline (3-0) at Monroe (2-1), Pinckney (1-2) at Chelsea (2-1).

Southwest Corridor

Constantine (2-1) at Schoolcraft (3-0)

After last season’s game couldn’t be played, this rivalry that goes back at least 70 years is back. And although these teams remain in separate divisions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, this matchup still carries plenty of clout. The Falcons do have a defeat, but by only two to a Hudson team that’s won 17 straight. Schoolcraft is coming off a four-point win over Kalamazoo United as it continues to rebound from last season – the Kalamazoo win was the second straight to avenge a 2021 loss.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Edwardsburg (2-1) at Vicksburg (2-1), Battle Creek Lakeview (1-1) at St. Joseph (2-1), Sturgis (2-1) at Paw Paw (2-1), Centreville (2-1) at Decatur (2-1).

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone (3-0) at St. Ignace (3-0)

These two have been the stories of the Upper Peninsula so far this season as both are on a roll after finishing sub-.500 last fall. Gladstone has defeated three 2021 league champions and appears the team to chase in the Great Northern Conference. St. Ignace may be the same in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy coming off its second-straight shutout this month, this one against last season’s Legends runner-up Frankfort.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Manistique (2-1) at Negaunee (3-0), L’Anse (2-1) at Iron Mountain (2-1), Menominee (1-2) at Escanaba (1-2). SATURDAY Bark River-Harris (3-0) at Houghton (2-1).

West Michigan

Ludington (3-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (3-0)

Two of the region’s best matchups this week come from the West Michigan Conference Lakes – Montague/Whitehall is the other – which means the league should sort out a bit by Saturday. Ludington is new to the league after playing formerly in the Lakes 8 Conference, and the Orioles already have equaled their win total of all of last season. The Oakridge matchup presents another level of opportunity though, as the Eagles are regular contenders in the former one-division WMC and owners of three wins already this fall over 2021 playoff qualifiers.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Byron Center (1-2) at Lowell (3-0), Montague (2-1) at Whitehall (3-0), Belding (3-0) at Grandville Calvin Christian (3-0), Holland West Ottawa (2-1) at Grandville (3-0)


Colon (3-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (3-0)

The Cougars are bringing a 27-game winning streak into this matchup – coinciding with their move to 8-player at the start of the 2020 season – and Colon was the opponent for two of those victories. But the Magi, last season’s Division 2 runner-up, also gave eventual Division 1 champ Lenawee Christian one of its best challenges last season, 47-21. Sidenote: These are two of five Southern Central Athletic Association A teams that have opened 2-1 or better.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Norway (3-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (3-0), Breckenridge (2-1) at Portland St. Patrick (3-0), Cedarville (3-0) at Newberry (2-1). SATURDAY Suttons Bay (2-1) at Brown City (3-0).

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 South Haven receiver pulls in a pass against Ada Forest Hills Eastern in Week 1. (Photo by Michigan Sports Photo.)

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.)