1st & Goal: Week 9 in Review

October 26, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Whether it’s 6-0, 0-6, or somewhere in between, your local football team deserves our admiration for a job well done this fall.

We started late, after not knowing if we’d play at all, and amid a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. And regardless of the wins and losses on the field, every team contributed to a figure worth celebrating – every week of this abbreviated regular season, at least 96 percent of varsity teams were cleared to play, a credit to the work done by players, coaches, administrators and families statewide to ensure that continued opportunity.

Of course, there were other memorable numbers established this weekend on the field – perhaps none more incredible than Bridgman’s record 47-point comeback highlighted in our 8-player review.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Midland 32, Midland Dow 6 The Chemics (6-0) nearly reversed last season’s 42-7 loss to Dow, in doing so clinching an outright Saginaw Valley League Blue title and their first perfect regular season since 2012. Midland held the Chargers (4-2) scoreless until the fourth quarter. With wins by both this week, they would meet again in a Division 2 District Semifinal. Click for more from the Midland Daily News and see highlights below from WJRT.

Watch list Grand Blanc 14, Saline 13 The Bobcats (5-1) finished runners-up in the SVL Red, but added to their intriguing playoff potential by handing Saline (5-1) its first loss.

Remember this one Davison 37, Lapeer 6 The Cardinals’ first regular-season win over Lapeer (3-3) since 2017 sealed the SVL Red championship. Davison (6-0) hosts Lapeer this week in Division 1 and has beaten the Lightning in the playoffs two of the last three seasons.

More shoutouts Fenton 33, Ortonville Brandon 21 The Tigers (6-0) remain undefeated after handing Brandon (5-1) its first defeat in this matchup of Flint Metro League divisional champions. Imlay City 28, Almont 14 The Spartans (4-2) defeated the reigning Division 5 runner-up Pirates (2-2) for the first time since 2008 and after losing 56-7 a year ago.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Macomb Dakota 42, Traverse City Central 16 The Cougars (5-1) are surging heading into the Division 1 playoffs, adding this win over Big North Conference champion Central to its shared Macomb Area Conference Red title. Dakota scored its season high and held the Trojans (5-1) to 36 points below their season average. Click for more from MLive-Detroit and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 23, Detroit Country Day 13 The Warriors (5-1) are on a roll heading into the Division 3 playoffs after handing Country Day (3-2) its first on-field loss of the fall.

Remember this one New Boston Huron 34, Dearborn Heights Crestwood 0 After tying for second in the Huron League, the Chiefs (5-1) are rolling into the Division 3 bracket as well after handing Western Wayne Athletic Conference champion Crestwood (5-1) its first defeat.

More shoutouts Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 40, Birmingham Groves 14 The Cougars (6-0) capped their first undefeated regular season by clinching the outright Oakland Activities Association White title against annual contender Groves (3-3). Detroit Catholic Central 45, Detroit Loyola 14 The Shamrocks (6-0) added the Prep Bowl Bishop championship to their Catholic League Central title, handing AA champ Loyola (5-1) its first loss.


HEADLINER Mason 40, Williamston 10 The Capital Area Activities Conference Red title came down to these two undefeated teams, and more specifically to Mason’s offense vs. Williamston’s defense. The Bulldogs (6-0) prevailed to repeat as champs, scoring nearly half of the points Williamston has given up all season while also holding the Hornets (5-1) to their season low. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal and see highlights below from WLNS.

Watch list Lansing Catholic 28, Pewamo-Westphalia 13 The Cougars (4-2) haven’t grabbed as much attention as usual this season, but consider their losses were to teams that are a combined 11-1 – and that they are headed to the playoffs having ended P-W’s 19-game winning streak.

Remember this one Clare 26, Sanford Meridian 20 The Pioneers’ only single-digit regular-season game decided the Jack Pine Conference title, as Clare (6-0) earned it outright and denied Meridian (4-2) a chance to share.

More shoutouts DeWitt 43, Stevensville Lakeshore 6 The Panthers (5-0) have been on a tear from the start, holding five opponents to six or fewer points and putting up 43 against a Lakeshore defense that was giving up only 10 per game. Olivet 61, Stockbridge 12 The Eagles (5-1) bounced back from their lone defeat to close out their fourth-straight Greater Lansing Activities Conference title.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Charlevoix 19, Maple City Glen Lake 8 Playing the Lakers (4-2) for the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders championship for the second year in a row, the Red Rayders claimed their first league title in football since 2000. The win also gave Charlevoix (6-0) its first perfect regular season since 1977, according to Michigan-football.com. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.

Watch list Johannesburg-Lewiston 60, Harbor Springs 29 The Cardinals (6-0) locked up their third-straight NMFC Legacy title and second-straight undefeated regular season by doubling up second-place Harbor Springs (3-3).

Remember this one Oscoda 24, Houghton Lake 6 The Owls (6-0) faced their toughest challenge this fall and answered it well, giving up their first points of the season but still holding Houghton Lake (4-2) to nearly 30 below their average.

More shoutouts Kingsley 36, Benzie Central 20 The Stags (6-0) closed out a second-straight NMFC Legends championship with their 20th-straight regular-season victory. Traverse City St. Francis 21, Jackson Lumen Christi 20 While reigning Division 7 runner-up Lumen (2-4) has had a tough run, this could end up a telling result as both head into the same division again and with St. Francis (4-2) a second seed while pursuing a seventh-straight District title.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Addison 56, Grass Lake 22 The Panthers (6-0) finished a second-straight perfect run through their Cascades Conference schedule and first undefeated regular season since 2006 while keeping Grass Lake (4-2) from earning a share of the championship. Addison has won three of its last four against the Warriors. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Watch list Chelsea 26, Monroe 17 The Bulldogs (6-0) finished a second-straight undefeated regular season with Monroe (4-2) their fifth opponent that finished .500 or better this fall.

Remember this one Clinton 21, Hillsdale 14 The Lenawee County Athletic Association title went to Blissfield, but Clinton (5-1) in its first season in the league won this matchup for second place, with the Hornets (4-2) ending in third.

More shoutouts Erie Mason 56, Pittsford 0 The Eagles (6-0) finished their first perfect regular season since 2003, and after last winning more than two games in a season in 2005. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 49, Detroit Southeastern 34 The Falcons (4-2) earned their most impressive win, handing Detroit Public School League 4 champion Southeastern (5-1) its only defeat.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Buchanan 20, Niles Brandywine 6 The list of accomplishments is growing for the Bucks (6-0) – they won the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference title outright, with their first perfect regular season since 2015, and after winning a combined five games over the last three seasons. Brandywine (3-3) had won the last three meetings between these teams, and two straight league titles. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.

Watch list Constantine 70, Coloma 32 The Falcons (5-1) finished a perfect run through the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore and earned the second seed in their Division 6 District opposite Buchanan.

Remember this one St. Joseph 22, Battle Creek Lakeview 14 There wasn’t a Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference title on the line this time, but there very well could be next time and St. Joseph (5-1) will enter that game with two wins in its last three matchups with Lakeview (4-2).

More shoutouts Edwardsburg 60, Paw Paw 6 The Eddies (6-0) completed their third-consecutive undefeated regular season and will be the top seed in their Division 4 District with Paw Paw (4-2) the third. Lawton 19, Saugatuck 2 The Blue Devils locked up second place in the SAC Valley and the second seed in a Division 7 District where they could face league champ Schoolcraft in two weeks.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Marquette 28, Calumet 6 Arguably the most impressive part of Marquette’s performance this fall has been its defense, which is giving up 13 points per game – a full seven points fewer than last year. Calumet (2-3) hadn’t been held to single digits since the 2018 playoffs, but Marquette (5-1) has held its last two opponents to six points apiece. Click for more from the Upbeat. 

Watch list Bark River-Harris 28, L’Anse 0 After an 0-2 start, Bark River-Harris (3-2) won its final three regular-season games and hasn’t given up a point in its last two.

Remember this one Escanaba 20, Gladstone 12 The Eskymos (1-2) bounced back from their first on-field loss with a 10th-straight win over Gladstone (2-3), enough to earn the fifth seed in their Division 4 District.

More shoutouts West Iron County 36, St. Ignace 22 The Wykons (6-0) capped their first perfect regular season since 2013 with their best offensive output of this fall. Sault Ste. Marie 60, Cheboygan 0 The Blue Devils (4-2) secured second place in the NMFC Legends.

West Michigan  

HEADLINER Grand Rapids Catholic Central 28, Grand Rapids South Christian 27 (OT) This was just about all that could be hoped for from a matchup of undefeated teams playing for a league championship. At the end, GRCC (6-0) had clinched its sixth-straight league title, back in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold, after winning outright or sharing the Blue championship the last four seasons. Click for more from WOOD TV.

Watch list Muskegon Mona Shores 35, Detroit Martin Luther King 21 This rematch of last season’s Division 2 Final ended with nearly the same score, great news for the reigning champion Sailors (3-3) and not necessarily bad for King (3-3) as it plays in Division 3 this time.

Remember this one Rockford 28, Grandville 8 The Rams (4-0) missed two weeks but came back in time to finish without a loss in the O-K Red while handing Grandville (5-1) its lone league defeat.

More shoutouts Hudsonville Unity Christian 42, Allendale 6 The Crusaders (6-0) finished a perfect run through the O-K Blue with their third single-digit defensive performance of the fall, holding Allendale (3-3) to a season-low points total. East Grand Rapids 12, Byron Center 8 The Pioneers (3-3) handed Byron Center (5-1) its only loss, allowing Forest Hills Central with its win over Lowell to share the O-K White championship with the Bulldogs.


HEADLINER Bridgman 54, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 53 (OT) The Bees set an MHSAA record – 8 and 11-player – for largest comeback winning this game after trailing by 47 points. With Martin having to forfeit a game to Lawrence, the Bees (5-1) joined the Clippers as one-loss teams atop the final Southwestern Michigan 8-Man Football League standings. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Watch list Portland St. Patrick 52, Burr Oak 19 Handing Burr Oak (5-1) its only loss kept St. Patrick (6-0) undefeated and cemented the Shamrocks as the top seed in the Division 2 Playoffs. 

Remember this one Morrice 58, Deckerville 30 The Orioles (6-0) also are a top seed, in Division 1, but Deckerville (4-2) is a possible Regional Semifinal opponent.

More shoutouts Mayville 48, Kinde North Huron 28 The matchup of North Central Thumb League champions went to the Stars winner as the Wildcats (6-0) handed Stripes champ North Huron its lone loss (5-1). Merrill 38, Indian River Inland Lakes 6 The Vandals (5-1) continue to look like contenders, bouncing back off a four-point loss to St. Patrick by handing Inland Lakes its only defeat.

PHOTO: Addison blockers lead the way for a teammate during Friday's win over Grass Lake. (Photo by Scott Mapes.)

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.)