Drive for Detroit: Playoff Week 1 Review

October 30, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A couple massive upsets and an MHSAA record. Not a bad way to kick off the 2017 Football Playoffs.

Those are just a few of the many highlights from this weekend’s first rounds – Pre-District in 11-player and Pre-Regional in 8-player – and we’ve mentioned many more in our “Drive for Detroit” report below powered by MI Student Aid.

Read on for some from each division that especially stuck out from the first of our five-week run. 

11-Player Division 1

Holland West Ottawa 33, Grandville 29

On a night that saw three teams lose Week 9 rematches they won the first time, West Ottawa (9-1) held on to down the Bulldogs (6-4) for the second straight week by scoring the winning points with less than a minute to play. West Ottawa had beaten Grandville 34-18 two weeks ago to claim the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title outright; now the Panthers take on another league foe in Rockford. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.

Also noted:

Rockford 36, Grand Ledge 0 – The Rams (7-3) hit the road and won their playoff opener for the 15th straight season, this time over the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue champion Comets (8-2).

Detroit Catholic Central 24, Livonia Stevenson 7 – The Shamrocks (6-4) made the playoffs as an at-large qualifier, but get a chance to win a third straight District title after downing another at-large team in Stevenson (5-5).

Canton 42, Saline 14 – The Chiefs (9-1) avenged last year’s District Final loss to the Hornets (7-2) as these two met in the postseason for the fourth straight.

West Bloomfield 31, Bloomfield Hills 6 – The Lakers’ most recent loss was by four points Week 2 to Bloomfield Hills (6-4), now avenged as West Bloomfield moved to 8-2 on the season.

11-Player Division 2

Flushing 20, Lowell 14

This season got even sweeter for the Raiders as they moved on to the District Final by handing Lowell (6-4) its earliest playoff exit since 1999. Flushing (8-2) now has as many wins as the last two seasons combined; the Raiders finished 4-5 in both 2015 and 2016. They scored with just more than three minutes to play Friday to break a 14-14 tie. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Traverse City Central 21, Midland 13 – The Trojans (7-3) drove south and came back with a win over the Saginaw Valley League Blue champ Chemics (8-2), earning the opportunity to see rival Traverse City West again this week.

Ypsilanti Lincoln 14, Brownstown Woodhaven 7 – In its fourth playoff game ever, Lincoln (8-2) earned its first playoff victory by ending a seven-game winning streak for the Warriors (7-3).

Birmingham Brother Rice 24, Birmingham Groves 21 (3OT) – This thriller included a blocked field goal attempt to stay alive and made field goal to win, both by the Warriors (7-3), to avenge last year’s playoff loss to Groves (7-3).

Livonia Franklin 35, Walled Lake Western 28 (OT) – The Patriots (8-2) ran their winning streak to six straight by outlasting the reigning Division 2 runner-up Warriors (8-2).

11-Player Division 3

Cedar Springs 41, East Grand Rapids 40

On a night of upsets, this one sent the loudest boom across the state. The Pioneers (9-1), coming off their first perfect regular season since their Division 3 championship year of 2010, trailed throughout the first half before taking a lead early in the second. Cedar Springs (7-3) went ahead again and stopped a two-point conversion attempt after East Grand Rapids’ last score to secure the win. Click for more from WOODTV8.

Also noted:

Zeeland West 42, Zeeland East 27 – For the second time in six years, West (7-3) took a loss from East (9-0) during the regular season (in this case Week 9) but came back to end the previously-undefeated Chix’ playoff run in the first round.

DeWitt 42, Grand Rapids Christian 10 – The Panthers (9-1) also got a revenge win after suffering their only loss this season on opening night to the Eagles (7-3).

Haslett 31, Parma Western 29 – The Vikings (8-2) continued their best season since 2006 thanks to a last-minute field goal by Nate Magnusson; at 6-4, Parma Western did tie its best record since 1986.

Redford Thurston 26, Romulus 0 – A loss in Week 6 to eventual champion Romulus (6-4) cost Thurston the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Blue title, but the Eagles (7-3) will get to play for a District championship instead.

11-Player Division 4

Three Rivers 20, Vicksburg 10

In another case of sudden revenge, Three Rivers bounced back from a Week 9 loss to the Bulldogs (7-3) that cost the Wildcats a share of the Wolverine B Conference title. The 20-point swing Friday kept Three Rivers (8-2) alive with its most wins since 2012 and earned it a rematch with Wolverine champ Edwardsburg; the Wildcats beat the Eddies in Week 7. Click for more from

Also noted:

Williamston 34, Lake Fenton 14 – The Hornets (6-4) came back from a seven-point Week 9 loss to the Blue Devils (8-2) with their first playoff wins since 2012.

Wyoming Kelloggsville 49, Wyoming Godwin Heights 7 – After downing their rivals by only one in Week 6, the Rockets (10-0) broke away; Godwin (7-3) should still celebrate its best finish since 1989.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 32, Hudsonville Unity Christian 26 – The reigning champion Cougars (10-0) survived one of their few scares of the season to eliminate Unity Christian (6-4) in a rematch of last year’s Semifinal.  

Plainwell 24, Grand Rapids South Christian 13 – The Trojans (8-2) reached eight wins for the third time in five years but after going only 4-5 a year ago, ending the season for a South Christian team that improved two wins to 7-3 this fall. 

11-Player Division 5

Frankenmuth 31, Almont 28

A seemingly high number of games enjoyed dramatic finishes to start the playoffs – but this one might have taken the prize. After trailing by 18 heading into the fourth quarter, Almont (7-3) took a 28-24 lead with 16 seconds to play. But Hunter Schluckebier brought back his second kickoff return for a touchdown on the night, this one 84 yards to give the Eagles (10-0) the lead again with two seconds left. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Grant 28, Newaygo 14 – The Tigers (7-3) equaled their most wins since 2010 by avenging a Week 8 loss to the Lions (7-3), who won the first meeting by 14.

Carrollton 25, Freeland 6 – The best season for Carrollton (7-3) since 2012 got even better with this avenging of a Week 8 loss to the Falcons (6-4), who won the first meeting by 17.

Ida 22, Detroit Denby 20 – The Bluestreaks (8-2) have bounced back from seeing their league title hopes dashed and downed one of the best from the Detroit Public School League in Denby (6-3).

Algonac 20, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 3 – The Blue Water Area Conference champ Muskrats (9-1) moved to 6-2 in the playoffs over the last three years by ending the best season for the Fighting Irish (7-3) since 2014. 

11-Player Division 6

Maple City Glen Lake 28, Boyne City 7

It was easy to glance at this Division 6 District and anticipate a rematch between Boyne City (9-1) and Traverse City St. Francis, who decided the Northern Michigan Football League Legends championship in Week 9. But reigning Division 6 runner-up Glen Lake (7-2) won the Leaders division this fall after a rough nonleague start and now gets a chance to avenge a Week 2 loss to the Gladiators. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Houghton Lake 20, Harrison 16 – After falling to Harrison (6-4) by two in Week 7, the Bobcats (7-3) came back to ensure their best record since 2005.

Laingsburg 7, Montrose 0 – The Wolfpack (8-2) got to eight wins for the third straight season with the game’s lone points against the Rams (7-3).

Blissfield 13, Napoleon 7 – The Royals (6-4) emerged from third place in the Lenawee County Athletic Association to hand a season-ending loss to Cascades Conference co-champion Napoleon (7-3).

Detroit Central 41, Clinton Township Clintondale 12 – The Trail Blazers (8-2) have their most wins since 2010 and will play for a second straight District title after ending a nice bounce-back season for the Dragons, who went from 4-5 in 2016 to 7-3. 

11-Player Division 7 

St. Louis 13, Beaverton 12

First St. Louis made the playoffs this month for the first time, and now this: The Sharks (6-4) also have their first playoff win and their most victories total in one season since 1995, thanks to a late touchdown that secured this opener. Beaverton (8-2) also enjoyed a historic season, its winningest since 1970. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun

Also noted:

Ishpeming Westwood 30, Elk Rapids 0 – Westwood (9-1) extended its record for wins in a season with this one over Elk Rapids (7-3) its first in the playoffs since 2009; the Elks can celebrate a great run after going a combined 2-15 over 2015-16. 

Reading 21, Union City 20 – Reading (8-2) hung on in a rematch after first defeating Union City (7-3) by 24 in Week 6.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 45, Addison 28 – St. Mary’s first playoff win since 2014 pushed the Falcons to 6-4 after a 1-3 start; Cascade Conference co-champ Addison (7-3) finished its most successful season since 2007. 

Riverview Gabriel Richard 22, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest 21 – The Pioneers (9-1) also set a program record for wins while ending a perfect run for Lutheran Northwest (9-1).

11-Player Division 8 

Climax-Scotts 84, Fulton 62

Part of the fun of this record-setting result was watching the score climb. The Pirates (7-3) led 35-34 at halftime, but Climax-Scotts (8-2) took a 62-49 advantage into the fourth quarter. Total, the 146 points set an MHSAA record for a game in which the losing team scored at least 40. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

Hillman 15, AuGres-Sims 6 – The Tigers (6-4) opened 0-3 but now have avenged one of those defeats, in the process handing AuGres-Sims (8-1) its only loss.

Harbor Beach 30, Ubly 22 – The Pirates defeated the rival Bearcats (7-3) for the second time in three weeks, moving to 9-1 with an eighth straight victory.

Petersburg-Summerfield 14, Morenci 6 – The Bulldogs (7-3) swung the score 20 points after falling 40-28 to Morenci (6-4) in Week 9.

Clarkston Everest Collegiate 26, Waterford Our Lady 21 – The Mountaineers (8-2) ran their streak against rival Our Lady to four straight after also downing the Lakers (6-3) in Week 7 to clinch the first share of the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 2 title. 

8-Player Division 1 

Lawrence 24, Camden-Frontier 20

The Cedar Springs win is tough to beat, but this was a massive upset as well. Camden-Frontier (9-1) entered with the second-highest playoff point average in Division 1, and only one opponent had come closer than 26 of catching the Redskins this fall. Lawrence (5-5) was the only team to make the playoffs with a sub-.500 record – but the 2014 champion is moving on. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.

Also noted: 

Cedarville 20, Rudyard 0 – Ten weeks later the result was more or less the same, as Cedarville (8-2) handed Rudyard (7-3) a second loss after they first met opening night.

Suttons Bay 38, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 24 – After not being able to finish last season’s schedule in 11-player, Suttons Bay (7-3) has found a home and downed Tri-unity (6-4) after it made the Semifinals in 2016.

Morrice 58, Kingston 28 – A month ago, Kingston (7-3) stunned the Orioles (9-1) the week after they handed Deckerville its lone loss; now Morrice gets to see Deckerville again after the two ended up splitting the North Central Thumb League Stars title.

8-Player Division 2

Engadine 38, Rapid River 28

Chalk up a major win for the eastern Upper Peninsula. Engadine (8-2) was surrounded in this Regional by three strong teams from the powerful Western Eight Conference, but now has a chance to come out as the winner after eliminating the WEC champion Rockets (7-3). Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press

Also noted:

Crystal Falls Forest Park 20, Powers North Central 6 – The Trojans (8-2) handed North Central a loss for the second time this season, eliminating the two-time reigning champion after the Jets (6-3) had won five straight.

Bay City All Saints 44, Marion 42 – The Cougars (7-3) bounced back from two straight losses to end the regular season to take down the West Michigan D League champ Eagles (7-2).

Flint International Academy 36, Battle Creek St. Philip 24 – The Phoenix (8-2) earned its first playoff win and sit 14-5 in two seasons as a program; St. Philip finished 5-5, returning to the playoffs after missing a year ago.

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Alma and Flint Powers Catholic played into overtime Friday before the Panthers emerged with a 20-14 win in Division 4. (Click to see more from

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

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.)