1st & Goal: 2023 Week 2 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

August 31, 2023

While opening weekend is always going to be among the most highly-anticipated every football season, Week 2 this fall could provide quite an encore.

MI Student AidThis weekend’s schedule statewide leads off with a trio of massive matchups that include teams from the Grand Rapids and/or Muskegon areas, with perhaps the top two teams in both the Lansing area and entire Upper Peninsula also set to face off and a possible Flint-area league championship also potentially being previewed for the second-straight season.

Four games were scheduled to be played Wednesday, with 241 today, 53 on Friday and two Saturday. Broadcasts of several will be available on MHSAA.tv with subscription, and come back all weekend to the MHSAA Scores page for results as they come in.

Here’s a look at some of those matchups that jump off the page most:

Bay & Thumb

Linden (1-0) at Goodrich (1-0), Thursday

Three of four meetings between these two over the last four seasons has been decided by six points or fewer. They met twice last season, first in a Flint Metro League non-divisional tune-up – won by Goodrich 6-0 – and then in the league championship game after both won their divisions, with the Martians prevailing again 21-0. After going separate ways a second time, Goodrich ended up in the Division 4 Final and finished runner-up, and Linden reached a Regional Final in Division 3.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Richmond (1-0) at Croswell-Lexington (1-0), Ithaca (1-0) at Standish-Sterling (0-1), Cass City (1-0) at Harbor Beach (1-0). FRIDAY Traverse City Central (1-0) at Lapeer (1-0).

Greater Detroit

Rochester (1-0) at Rochester Adams (1-0), Thursday

Look past that Adams has won this matchup 26 times in a row, and the rivalry has had a different vibe of late as Rochester has continued to improve. The Highlanders won both meetings last year, 34-18 in Week 2 but also 28-14 in a Division 1 District Final while facing the Falcons in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Rochester High has strung together three straight winning seasons and lost last week by just a point, 22-21, to Utica while Adams opened with a 22-8 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY West Bloomfield (1-0) at Birmingham Groves (1-0), Detroit Loyola (1-0) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (1-0). FRIDAY Hastings (1-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (1-0), Clarkston (0-1) at Southfield Arts & Technology (1-0).


Mason (1-0) at DeWitt (1-0), Thursday

These two both were one more win away from giving Ford Field an all-Capital Area Activities Conference Division 3 Final last season, as they both finished with losses in Semifinals on the opposite sides of the bracket. They may be mid-Michigan’s top two teams this season. DeWitt again is a favorite in the CAAC Blue and showed plenty of mettle in coming back to defeat Haslett in their opener 27-17. Mason returns nearly its entire starting lineup from last year’s 12-1 run and opened last week with a 52-14 win over Holt, a Division 1 playoff team last fall.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Hudsonville (1-0) at East Lansing (0-1), Portland (1-0) at Olivet (0-1), Lansing Sexton (1-0) at Lansing Catholic (1-0), Fenton (1-0) at Haslett (0-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Frankfort (1-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (1-0), Thursday

These two frequent league title contenders didn’t determine any championships last year, but Frankfort did win their matchup 22-6 to finish runner-up in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy. Both teams opened with wins last week, Frankfort in the Legacy 38-8 over Mancelona, and the Lakers 34-18 nonleague over Manton. After a mostly-dominating 20-teens, Glen Lake has had a few tough seasons of late – but winning this matchup would be a nice boost as first-year coach Jesse Smith establishes his program.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Hudson (1-0) at Benzie Central (1-0), Johannesburg-Lewiston (1-0) at East Jordan (1-0), Gaylord (1-0) at Kingsley (1-0). FRIDAY Elk Rapids (0-1) at Boyne City (1-0).

Southeast & Border

Riverview (1-0) at Carleton Airport (1-0), Thursday

Riverview was able to clinch the outright Huron League title last season in part because of an 18-13 win over Airport in Week 7, with the Jets going on to tie for second. This matchup could be part of the equation again, especially after Airport claimed an impressive 31-10 win last week over Gibraltar Carlson – winner of nine games both of the last two seasons – and Pirates more than doubled up Detroit Renaissance to run their regular-season winning streak to 29.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Whitehall (1-0) at Tecumseh (1-0), Detroit Country Day (1-0) at Parma Western (1-0). FRIDAY Edwardsburg (0-1) at Chelsea (0-1), Dexter (0-1) at Saline (1-0).

Southwest Corridor

Traverse City St. Francis (1-0) at Lawton (1-0), Friday

This season’s Gladiators picked up some key experience on the fly last week with a 41-40 overtime win over Charlevoix as they work to replace many of last year’s leaders who took the team to a Division 7 runner-up finish and along the way defeated Lawton 42-7 in Week 8. The Blue Devils were in a similar spot a year ago as the 2021 Division 7 runner-up and rebounded from the St. Francis defeat to win a District title before falling by just a point to eventual champion Jackson Lumen Christi in the Regional. St. All four teams mentioned here are in Division 7 this fall, and Lawton opened with a 51-20 win last week over Benton Harbor.  

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Schoolcraft (1-0) at Centreville (0-1), Delton Kellogg (1-0) at Parchment (1-0), Niles (1-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (0-1). FRIDAY Battle Creek Harper Creek (1-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-1)

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (1-0) at Gladstone (1-0), Thursday

The conversation went back and forth last season about which of these two was the Upper Peninsula’s best team until Negaunee won their first meeting 24-6 in Week 7, and the Miners wrapped that up again with an 18-12 Regional win on the way to finishing Division 6 runner-up. It’s too early to have that conversation yet this year, but judging by last week’s results – Gladstone won 36-7 over Marquette and Negaunee doubled up Ishpeming 32-16 – both may be in the conversation again.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Bark River-Harris (1-0) at Iron Mountain (1-0), Cadillac (0-1) at Escanaba (1-0), Menominee (1-0) at Hancock (1-0), Kingsford (1-0) at Houghton (0-1).

West Michigan

Warren De La Salle Collegiate (0-1) at Muskegon (0-1), Friday

As noted, there are some monster matchups on the west side of the state this weekend – see below for others – but it’s hard not to dive into this one even though both fell in season openers last week. Both also finished last season at Ford Field – De La Salle as repeat Division 2 champion and Muskegon as Division 3 runner-up. The Pilots were leading Davison last week before storms forced their game to finish up the next day and the Cardinals prevailed 31-26. The Big Reds, meanwhile, took on another Division 1 contender in Rockford and lost 27-7 in a game that also no doubt will pay off in experience and playoff points.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Portage Central (1-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (1-0). FRIDAY River Rouge (0-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-1), East Grand Rapids (1-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (1-0), Rockford (1-0) at Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0).


Posen (1-0) at Rogers City (1-0), Friday

Rogers City was the North Star League Big Dipper champion last season, and Posen was the Little Dipper runner-up, and the Hurons claimed their Week 3 meeting 12-6. Both are coming off big season-opening wins last week, with Posen nearly doubling up a Pellston program that’s had a nice run of success most of the last half-decade. But this matchup likely will tell us much more about both teams, especially relative to the 18-1 regular-season run Rogers City has put together since the start of 2021.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Merrill (1-0) at Morrice (1-0), Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-0) at Indian River Inland Lakes (1-0), Colon (0-1) at Mendon (1-0), Munising (0-1) at Newberry (1-0).

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PHOTO A St. Clair Shores Lakeview ball carrier works to break a tackle during last week’s 28-0 win over Warren Woods Tower. (Photo by Chris Mudd/National Photo Scout.)

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.)