1st & Goal: Week 8 Preview

October 15, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The midpoint of every other regular season is crunch time during this abbreviated fall of 2020.

Teams across Michigan will play their fifth games this weekend – but a week from Saturday, all of this year’s league championships and playoff profile boosting will be complete.

Every game has meant even more, and below are a number of games this weekend that could end up meaning the most. 

Find the schedule and then results this weekend as they’re reported via the MHSAA Score CenterThis week’s broadcast schedule includes 53 varsity football games on MHSAA.tv; click the link for listings

Bay & Thumb

Hemlock (4-0) at Millington (4-0)

This will decide the Tri-Valley Conference West I championship, with Hemlock seeking its first league title since 2012 and Millington its first since 2014. To finish first, the Huskies will need to break a recent three-game losing streak against the Cardinals, who won last year’s matchup 15-6. Millington’s defense might be the key this time; it has given up just 34 points over its other three league matchups. 

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Marine City (4-0) at Marysville (4-0), North Branch (4-0) at Imlay City (3-1), Bad Axe (3-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (3-1), Fenton (4-0) at Swartz Creek (3-1).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Cass Tech (4-0) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (3-1) at Detroit Collegiate Prep, Saturday

They opened this season with their closest result since 2015, Cass Tech winning 34-26, and now meet again in the Detroit Public School League 1-2 championship game. Both cruised through their league schedules, both giving up only seven points over their other three games this fall.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (4-0), Garden City (3-1) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (4-0), Detroit Central (4-0) vs. Detroit Southeastern (4-0) at Detroit Collegiate Prep. SATURDAY Clarkston Everest Collegiate (4-0) at Royal Oak Shrine (4-0).


McBain (4-0) at Beal City (4-0)

The Aggies were well on their way to a perfect run through the Highland Conference last season when third-place McBain stunned with a 27-0 win in the league finale – which sent Beal into a shared championship with Houghton Lake instead. McBain and Beal City are meeting in the league finale again, with the winner taking the championship outright.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Pewamo-Westphalia (4-0) at Fowler (4-0), Harrison (3-1) at Clare (4-0), Durand (4-0) at New Lothrop (4-0), Williamston (4-0) at Olivet (4-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula 

Sault Ste. Marie (3-1) at Kingsley (4-0)

The Blue Devils have launched an impressive chase of reigning champion Kingsley in their first season as part of the Northern Michigan Football Conference, as both are the only teams still unbeaten in Legends division play. Both have wins over Traverse City St. Francis, but Sault Ste. Marie’s victory over Marquette in Week 5 may turn out to have been even more important prep for the powerful Stags.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Jordan (3-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-0), Manistee (3-1) at Ludington (3-1), Cadillac (3-1) at Traverse City West (3-1). SATURDAY Ogemaw Heights (3-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (2-2).

Southeast & Border 

Erie Mason (4-0) at Sand Creek (4-0) 

The Eagles, first-year members of the Tri-County Conference, are in a league title conversation for the first time since winning the Lenawee County Athletic Association in 2003. They also can tie their winningest finish since 2003 with a victory this week or next, having won a combined eight games over the last seven seasons before this fall. Sand Creek is used to more success, but still is hoping to clinch its first league championship since 2011. Both have scored at least 46 points in every game this fall.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Homer (4-0) at Reading (3-1), Monroe (3-1) at Temperance Bedford (3-1), Ida (2-2) at Blissfield (4-0), Michigan Center (1-1) at Manchester (2-2). 

Southwest Corridor 

Lawton (4-0) at Schoolcraft (3-1)

In 2019, Lawton won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title, and Schoolcraft the SAC Lakeshore championship. This fall, Schoolcraft moved into the Valley, and Lawton this weekend no doubt is rolling up the welcome mat – recalling as well how the Eagles defeated the Blue Devils 47-10 in last season’s Division 7 District Final.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Constantine (3-1) at Kalamazoo United (4-0), Battle Creek Lakeview (4-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (3-1), Cassopolis (2-2) at Mendon (3-1), Watervliet (2-2) at Coloma (3-1).

Upper Peninsula

Escanaba (0-1) at Marquette (3-1)

Arguably the Upper Peninsula’s most famed rivalry will add one of its more interesting chapters, as Marquette has clinched a share of the Great Northern Conference championship while Escanaba is finally getting an opportunity to play its first game this fall. This could go a few ways. The Eskymos could show some rust against their game-sharpened rivals. They also could unleash a month’s worth of wanting to get back on the field now that they’ve finally gotten the chance.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gladstone (2-1) at Menominee (2-2), West Iron County (4-0) at Gwinn (2-2), Negaunee (3-1) at Houghton (1-1), Calumet (1-2) at Hancock (1-2).

West Michigan 

Whitehall (4-0) at Montague (4-0)

Tonight’s winner will clinch a share of the West Michigan Conference title, and Montague is a frequent part of the championship conversation. Whitehall is seeking its first WMC title since 1999, but has had a big role is making this one of the most competitive leagues in the state as well with five playoff appearances over the last six seasons. This matchup could be a test of defensive wills – the Vikings have allowed only three points this season, and Montague has given up a mere 12.  

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Zeeland West (4-0) at Muskegon (3-1), Allendale (3-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (3-1), Hamilton (2-2) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (4-0), Ada Forest Hills Eastern (3-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (4-0).


Kinde-North Huron (4-0) at Peck (3-1)

This showdown will decide at least a share of the North Central Thumb League Stripes championship, with North Huron able to clinch outright what would be its second title in four seasons. The Warriors have won six straight times over Peck, including in last season’s playoff opener – although the team’s regular-season meeting was decided by just eight points.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Munising (4-0) at Cedarville (3-1), Deckerville (3-1) at Genesee (3-1), Pickford (4-0) at Rapid River (3-1). SATURDAY Merrill (4-0) at Portland St. Patrick (4-0).

PHOTO: Muskegon Catholic Central is another undefeated team this fall; here the defense surrounds Sparta’s quarterback during the Oct. 2 victory. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)