1st & Goal: 2023 Week 2 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 4, 2023

Every season is a story, and Week 2 gave us plenty to consider as this one continues to unfold.

MI Student AidWe had pretty high expectations for this Labor Day weekend, which featured power-packed matchups from both local and statewide points of view – and we weren’t disappointed.

But there were several intriguing twists and turns as well – including numerous teams that came back impressively from opening-day losses – and we dive into many of those results below.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Chesaning 27, New Lothrop 22 These two began playing each other regularly with the creation of the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference in 2018, and four-time league champion New Lothrop (1-1) had won the first five meetings of the recent series by an average score of 51-8 – including 40-14 a year ago. But Chesaning (1-1) built a 27-6 lead by the middle of the third quarter this time on the way to rebounding bigtime from a Week 1 four-point loss to Bath. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Watch list Goodrich 45, Linden 28 The Martians (2-0) followed up a Week 1 win over reigning Division 5 runner-up Frankenmuth with this win over another returning league champion in Linden (1-1).

On the move Ubly 42, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 0 The Bearcats (2-0) have now won their first two games by a combined score of 92-13 over teams that went a combined 19-6 last season. Montrose 22, Durand 14 Add this to the Chesaning win and the MMAC might be in for more change at the top, as the Rams moved to 2-0 by handing reigning champ Durand its second defeat. Yale 34, Armada 28 The same might be said in the Blue Water Area Conference as Yale (2-0) broke a four-game losing streak against reigning champion Armada (1-1), avenging last year’s 42-18 defeat.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Warren De La Salle Collegiate 40, Muskegon 28 The reigning Division 2 champion Pilots (1-1) needed just a week to put the opening loss to Davison solidly behind them as they crossed the state and picked up a major bounce-back win over last season’s Division 3 runner-up Big Reds (0-2). The teams traded leads for most of the first three quarters with De La Salle carrying a five-point lead into the fourth and adding one more score to pull away. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Watch list Roseville 33, Romeo 30 The Panthers (2-0) are making big headlines early, following last week’s shutout of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice with this win over the Bulldogs (0-2) that avenged last season’s 30-6 loss.

On the move West Bloomfield 41, Birmingham Groves 19 The Lakers also are off to another notable 2-0 start after doubling up a Division 2 semifinalist from a year ago. Southfield Arts & Technology 20, Clarkston 17 The Warriors (2-0) have set their pace defeating a pair of Division 1 powers, this time breaking a four-game losing streak against the Wolves (0-2).  Redford Union 14, Dearborn Heights Crestwood 12 Last season this ended up eventually deciding the Western Wayne Athletic Conference title for the Chargers, although this matchup was much closer than their 41-6 victory a year ago.


HEADLINER Mason 42, DeWitt 23 The Bulldogs (2-0) affirmed themselves as the frontrunners for the Lansing area’s best team after jumping out to a 35-0 lead on the Panthers (1-1) in this matchup of 2022 Division 3 semifinalists. Fourth-year varsity senior AJ Martel was among standouts with 139 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Lansing Sexton 48, Lansing Catholic 20 The J-Dubbs are off to their first 2-0 start since 2017, also their most recent winning season, and avenged a 35-0 loss to the Cougars (1-1) from a year ago.

On the move Haslett 41, Fenton 25 The Vikings bounced back from a Week 1 loss to DeWitt as Nakai Amachree scored six touchdowns. Ithaca 39, Standish-Sterling 26 The Yellowjackets (2-0) had lost the last two seasons to the Panthers (0-2), last season’s ending up Ithaca’s only defeat on the way to the Division 7 Regional Finals. Mount Pleasant 35, Midland 6 Add the Oilers (1-1) to the list of quick bounce-backers as they rebounded from a big Week 1 loss to down a Midland team that won 10 games last season and opened with a victory last week.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Gaylord 42, Kingsley 39 The Blue Devils are 2-0 for the second-straight season after holding off a late Kingsley comeback attempt. The Stags (1-1) scored twice over the final four minutes to again make this matchup a one-score game after Gaylord won last year’s meeting by a point. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Cadillac 43, Escanaba 36 The Vikings (1-1) came back from a three-point season-opening loss to Midland to begin Big North Conference play with a key win over new league member Escanaba (1-1).

On the move Frankfort 28, Maple City Glen Lake 15 Just two weeks in, Frankfort finds itself 2-0 in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy with a Week 8 matchup with East Jordan looking even more like one to circle. Boyne City 57, Elk Rapids 14 The Ramblers also are 2-0 after playing two 2022 playoff teams and with more tests ahead as the schedule doesn’t get any easier the rest of September. Mancelona 52, Tawas 20 The Ironmen (1-1) won one game last season and scored just 86 points over nine, but they equaled that victory total while avenging last year’s 30-8 loss to Tawas (1-1).

Remus Chippewa Hills improved to 2-0 with a 43-13 win over Grant.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Carleton Airport 48, Riverview 27 The Jets (2-0) not only have defeated two league champions so far this fall – add this win to the 31-10 opener over Gibraltar Carlson – but they’ve set themselves up well starting Huron League play after missing out on a shared title a year ago when Riverview (1-1) won the matchup 18-13 and went on to make the Division 4 Semifinals. Click for more from the Monroe News.

Watch list Parma Western 20, Detroit Country Day 17 There’s been early talk that Western (2-0) is a team to watch more closely this fall, and this combined with the Week 1 win over Dearborn Divine Child definitely is justifying the buzz. Country Day (1-1) is coming off a run to the Division 5 Semifinals.

On the move Quincy 18, Reading 12 The Orioles (1-1) are seeking a first winning season since 2018, and this could be big as they hadn’t defeated Reading (0-2) since 2016 and lost last year’s meeting 42-0. Chelsea 27, Edwardsburg 14 The Bulldogs (1-1) evened their record this fall and avenged a 40-7 loss to the Eddies (0-2) from last as these two recent Division 4 champions continued a regular-season series. Saline 41, Dexter 25 The matchup that decided the Southeastern Conference Red outright title for Dexter (0-2) in Week 8 last year moved to the front of the league schedule this fall and still might end up having championship implications as Saline (2-0) is off to a strong start.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Lawton 38, Traverse City St. Francis 6 The Blue Devils’ Kal Motter was another of the statewide stars of the weekend with five touchdowns as Lawton handed reigning Division 7 runner-up St. Francis its first regular-season loss since October 2020. The Gladiators (1-1) had won last year’s meeting 42-7 and hadn’t been held to single-digit scoring also since 2020. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Watch list Battle Creek Harper Creek 21, Battle Creek Central 13 The Beavers are 2-0 for the first time since 2017 having now avenged both 2022 losses to neighbors Lakeview in Week 1 and Central on Friday. Harper Creek had lost to the Bearcats 34-0 a year ago.

On the move Richland Gull Lake 7, Vicksburg 6 The Blue Devils are 2-0 for the first time since 2007 and after winning three games total last season, when they fell 28-6 to playoff regular Vicksburg (0-2). Paw Paw 42, Berrien Springs 6 The Red Wolves (2-0) added to their impressive opening victory over Big Rapids with another over the annually playoff-qualifying Shamrocks (0-2). Kalamazoo Central 47, Sturgis 34 The Maroon Giants’ opener ended up cancelled due to weather, but they made their late start sweet with this first win since Week 7 of 2021 – and against a 2022 playoff qualifier in the Trojans (1-1).

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Gladstone 42, Negaunee 14 Gladstone (2-0) is coming off its best season in more than a decade, but it still included losses to Negaunee (1-1) during the regular season and Regional Finals. This was a first step toward avenging all of that, and with some new significance – Gladstone joined reigning champion (and Division 6 runner-up) Negaunee in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper this season. Click for more from RRN Sports.

Watch list Iron Mountain 40, Bark River-Harris 0 The Mountaineers (2-0) are another team running at full steam with a pair of wins over 2022 playoff teams, but with an interesting September coming up as they moved into the WPAC Iron this fall after regularly contending in the Copper over the last five seasons.

On the move Sault Ste. Marie 26, Cheboygan 0 For the fifth season in a row, the Blue Devils have started 2-0 – and for the second time in three seasons, they’ve opened with two shutouts. Calumet 42, Ishpeming Westwood 22 The Copper Kings picked up nice momentum following an opening loss to Escanaba by getting to 1-0 in the WPAC Copper with Negaunee up next. Kingsford 34, Houghton 0 The Flivvers also are unscored upon after two games, with Gladstone a major test next.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Rockford 31, Muskegon Mona Shores 8 The Rams (2-0) followed up an impressive opening win over Muskegon High with another stunning performance, holding Mona Shores (1-1) scoreless until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. This was just a four-point game a year ago, but Rockford now heads into Ottawa-Kent Conference Red play with a combined 58-15 margin over its first two. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Watch list East Grand Rapids 23, Grand Rapids South Christian 21 The Pioneers (2-0) are coming off two straight sub-.500 seasons, but that rarity could be moving into distant memory as they followed up a shutout of Cedar Springs by downing the reigning Division 4 champion Sailors (1-1) with the game-winner on the final play.

On the move Grand Rapids Catholic Central 38, River Rouge 6 Both are being talked about already in the championship mix, making this victory even more notable as GRCC moved to 1-1 and Rouge to 0-2. North Muskegon 41, Muskegon Catholic Central 21 The Norsemen (2-0) are one of the stories of the first two weeks, following an opening win over Pewamo-Westphalia by avenging last year’s only regular-season loss in sending the Crusaders to 0-2. Hudsonville Unity Christian 33, Muskegon Oakridge 21 These Crusaders (1-1) opened with a pair of contenders from the West Michigan Conference Lakes and followed Week 1 loss to Whitehall with an impressive victory over a 10-win team from a year ago.


HEADLINER Newberry 16, Munising 6 Newberry’s only losses of the 2022 season were to Munising in Week 2 and again in a Division 1 Regional Final. But along with avenging those, this victory should provide plenty of momentum as Newberry heads into this week’s matchup with Rudyard, the only other opponent to come within single digits last season.

Watch list St. Ignace 46, Pellston 6 The Saints (2-0) appear to be adjusting to 8-player quickly as they increased their margin over their first two victories to a combined 96-12.

On the move Posen 56, Rogers City 14 The Vikings (2-0) handed the Hurons just their second regular-season defeat over the last three and now have reached 50 points in both games this fall. Indian River Inland Lakes 54, Lake Linden-Hubbell 46 The Bulldogs (2-0) got a late start as well after their Week 1 game was forfeited, but they started it memorably by edging a Lakes team coming off its second-straight seven-win season. Mendon 58, Colon 30 After winning last year’s Division 2 Regional Final meeting with the Magi by only two points, Mendon broke free with Jack McCaw and Owen Gorham both going over 100 yards rushing and combining for five touchdowns.

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PHOTOS (Top) Marquette's Tucker Welch (4) finds a big hole and scores Marquette's first touchdown of its 49-0 win over Alpena. (Middle) Remus Chippewa Hills improved to 2-0 with a 43-13 win over Grant. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)

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.)