1st & Goal: 2022 Week 8 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 14, 2022

From a mile-high view, it’s incredible to consider how much history and how many memories will be made on Michigan high school football fields this weekend.

MI Student AidWe’re so close to the end of the regular season that almost every league in the state will have awarded at least a share of its championship by Saturday night. We’re also nine days from solidifying this season’s playoffs – and between Weeks 6 and 7 alone the prospective field of 288 teams saw 17 changes as time ticks down for hopefuls to make their move.

See below for our glance at several games that could continue to shape how this regular season finishes up. (Games are Friday unless noted.)

Bay & Thumb

Croswell-Lexington (6-1) at North Branch (6-1)

It seems like we’re turning to the Blue Water Area Conference for a big game every week, and this time it pits two of three teams tied for first as the league schedule concludes. The winner clinches a share of the league title, and Armada can as well with a win over Richmond. Croswell-Lexington broke a four-game losing streak against the Broncos with a 28-7 win last season – the only time North Branch has been held to single-digit scoring over the last two years. The Broncos are averaging 52 points per game this season, and a Pioneers defense giving up 16.5 will need to slow them down again.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Clarkston (5-2) at Lapeer (7-0), Grand Blanc (4-3) at Davison (6-1), Charlotte (6-1) at Flint Hamady (7-0). SATURDAY Goodrich (6-1) at Linden (5-2).

Greater Detroit

Livonia Franklin (7-0) at Belleville (7-0)

The Tigers have been nearly unbeatable the last six seasons – they’ve lost only once each of the last five, and the first four of those defeats came during the playoffs. The reigning Division 1 champions have won all four meetings with Franklin since joining the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East in 2018 – and this time the matchup will decide the outright league championship. The Patriots turned a 4-5 regular season in 2021 into a trip to the Division 2 Semifinals, and they haven’t slowed down. Nor has Belleville; the Tigers are outscoring their opponents by an average of 54-8 this season.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Detroit Cass Tech (4-3) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (5-1) at Wayne State, Detroit Community (4-3) at Mount Clemens (6-1), Warren De La Salle Collegiate (6-1) at River Rouge (5-1), West Bloomfield (6-1) at Southfield Arts & Technology (6-1).


Durand (7-0) at New Lothrop (6-1)

New Lothrop has won 12 straight league football titles between the Genesee Area Conference and current the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. But extending the streak got a little more complicated with last week’s 14-13 loss to Ovid-Elsie. That meant Durand earned a share of the championship with its 5-0 league start – and New Lothrop must win tonight to also earn a share, with a victory also giving another share to the Marauders. The Railroaders’ title is their first since 1983, and earning a win over New Lothrop for the outright championship would add another significant note to this memorable season. The Hornets have won their four MMAC meetings by an average of 33 points per game.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Lansing (6-1) at Holt (4-3), Olivet (6-1) at Williamston (5-2), Bath (5-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-3), Clare (5-2) at Shepherd (5-2).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Lawton (6-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (7-0), Saturday

A league title in hand, St. Francis is continuing to push to the end of the regular season with Lawton up this week and Detroit Country Day next in Week 9. With Saugatuck unable to play its league game against Lawton this week, the Blue Devils – also their league’s champions – made a similar power move in connecting with the Gladiators for a matchup of the No. 1 (St. Francis) and No. 5 teams in Division 7 playoff-point average.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Ignace (6-1) at Elk Rapids (5-2), Portland (6-1) at Cadillac (5-2), Gladstone (5-2) at Gaylord (5-2), Evart (6-1) at Lake City (5-2).

Southeast & Border

Saline (6-1) at Dexter (7-0)

Dexter received an unexpected assist last week when Temperance Bedford ended Saline’s 50-game Southeastern Conference Red winning streak with a 7-0 defeat – which also led to the Dreadnaughts earning a share of the league title instead of this week’s matchup being a winner-take-all for the outright championship. Saline will be plenty motivated especially on offense after being shut out for the first time since the first game of 2017 – and the defense has been elite giving up only 8.4 points per game. Dexter has put up similar numbers and surely hasn’t forgotten how close it came in last season’s 42-40 loss to the Hornets.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hudson (7-0) at Dundee (6-1), Homer (5-2) at Reading (6-1), Marine City Cardinal Mooney (6-1) at Whitmore Lake (6-1), Erie Mason (5-2) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-0).

Southwest Corridor

Buchanan (6-1) at Benton Harbor (4-3)

The inaugural Lakeland Athletic Conference football title will be decided in part by this game. Buchanan clinched a share of the championship with a 26-24 win over Niles Brandywine last week. But Benton Harbor can also gain a share with a win this weekend – a major accomplishment as the team that went 10-1 in 2016 played as an independent, and the Tigers haven’t won a league title since 1984. Benton Harbor is giving up only 14 points per game, and that defense might be the key as it’s held up well even in the team’s defeats.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Muskegon Catholic Central (5-2) at Centreville (6-1), Chelsea (5-2) at Edwardsburg (6-1), Niles Brandywine (4-3) at Berrien Springs (5-1), Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-2) at Decatur (5-2).

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (7-0) at Houghton (5-2)

The Miners are coming off a memorable win over Gladstone, 24-6, and they’ve been consistently solid all season. That must continue this week with a chance to clinch a share of the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title on the line. Houghton is coming off a defeat against Calumet, but the Gremlins are one more victory from equaling their winningest season since 2013, and they’ve had their moments on defense over the last two seasons – including holding a Negaunee offense that otherwise averaged 34 points per game to only 26 last fall.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Iron Mountain (6-1) at Ishpeming (4-3), Bark River-Harris (5-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (4-3), Midland (6-1) at Marquette (3-4), Petoskey (2-5) at Sault Ste. Marie (4-3).

West Michigan

Muskegon Mona Shores (6-1) at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (5-2)

The Sailors can clinch a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green championship with a win and haven’t lost to Reeths-Puffer since 2016. A 34-6 victory to hand Zeeland West its only loss sticks out from this year’s run, but Mona Shores must be careful with the Rockets. With one more win, Reeths-Puffer will guarantee its best season since 2013. And although the Rockets lost last week to Zeeland West 30-12, they did impress in a 28-20 Week 3 defeat against Muskegon High – Mona Shores’ opponent in Week 9.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Coopersville (5-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-1), Ravenna (5-2) at Muskegon Oakridge (6-1), Grand Rapids Christian (3-4) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (7-0), Kingsford (5-2) at Hopkins (5-2).


Alcona (6-1) at Rogers City (7-0)

This has been an anticipated matchup in the North Star League Big Dipper for a few weeks, and Alcona’s 50-34 loss last week to Au Gres-Sims sapped it only a bit. Rogers City would clinch the title outright with a win, while an Alcona win puts those two and Whittemore-Prescott atop the standings with one loss apiece. The Hurons won a few games close over the first month to get into this position, but their defense has been tough throughout giving up only 17 points per game. Alcona is seeking its first win over Rogers City since 2017 and will attempt to counter that defense with an offense averaging 56 points per game.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Newberry (6-1) at Pickford (5-2), Central Lake (5-2) at Farwell (7-0), Kingston (7-0) at Mayville (5-2), Adrian Lenawee Christian (6-1) at Climax-Scotts (6-1).

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PHOTO A Saginaw Nouvel ball carrier dashes through the Ithaca defense during the Yellowjackets' 48-6 win Sept. 9. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)