Drive for Detroit: Week 11 in Review

November 10, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A total of 16 MHSAA football teams in Divisions 1-5 entered the postseason with playoff-point averages above 100 – an impressive number indicating those teams not only had strong records, but played plenty of tough competition as well. 

Three of those 16 teams lost their playoff openers, joined by eight more over the weekend as more of the top achievers during the regular season were overtaken by those raising their games with only a few more to play. 

The top playoff-point teams in Division 3 (DeWitt) and Division 5 (Marine City) both suffered their first and only losses this season, and 10 more undefeated teams saw their seasons end with lone defeats of the fall. 

Read on to see some of the key results that whittled the playoff field to 68 that will play in 11-player Regional Finals and 8-player Semifinals this week. 


Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 28, Macomb Dakota 27

This has been anticipated as a top Macomb County matchup for a few years – but instead, Dakota had beaten the Big Reds (8-3) in 16 straight dating back to 2004 and including six times in the playoffs. Dakota (8-3) had beaten Chippewa Valley 42-21 in Week 2 and in the playoffs both of the last two seasons. Junior Stefan Clairborne blocked a late extra-point attempt to highlight a game-changing special teams performance. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Also noted:

Clarkston 23, Lapeer 20 – The reigning champion Wolves (11-0) survived the third three-point game of their 24-game winning streak, handing Lapeer (10-1) the only loss of its inaugural season.

Hudsonville 37, Rockford 15 – The Eagles (7-4) avenged their one-point Week 4 loss to Rockford (8-3), and then some, to claim a second-straight District title.

Detroit Cass Tech 28, Dearborn Fordson 21 – One of these had to fall for the first time this season, and the Technicians (11-0) hung on to claim their fifth straight District championship while ending the best season for Fordson (10-1) since 2008.


Muskegon Mona Shores 41, Midland Dow 14

In what seemed like an instant, this one belonged to Mona Shores. The Sailors (10-1) jumped out to a 21-0 lead in handing Dow (10-1) its lone loss this season. Mona Shores quarterback Tyree Jackson was at the center of the offensive effort as usual, but this time on the ground with three rushing touchdowns. Dow hadn’t given up more than 21 points in a game. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Farmington Hills Harrison 10, Walled Lake Western 9 (OT) – These former longtime rivals hadn’t played each other since 2001 and battled to 3-3 before Harrison (9-2) prevailed in part by blocking an extra-point attempt by Western (9-2).

Southfield 14, Oak Park 13 – The Bluejays (8-3) won a rematch of these teams' 2012 District Final, which was won by Oak Park (8-3) also close, 19-12.

Wyandotte Roosevelt 28, Brownstown Woodhaven 21 – Roosevelt (9-2) will play this weekend for its fourth straight season of at least 10 wins, but this time ended the best ever for Woodhaven (10-1) by handing the Warriors their only loss. 


Mason 30, DeWitt 14

Few gave Mason (8-3) much chance against the reigning Division 3 runner-up Panthers (10-1), who entered the postseason with the highest playoff-point average in this division. But the Bulldogs, who entered the season with an experienced group of playmakers, have improved significantly around them after opening 1-3. DeWitt won their first meeting 25-10 in Week 3, but Mason has clamped down particularly on defense in earning this first Regional Final berth since 1995. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Petoskey 20, Mount Pleasant 14 – The Northmen (9-2) earned their first Regional Final berth since 1998 by handing to Oilers (7-4) their second loss this season by six or fewer points.

Zeeland West 30, Stevensville Lakeshore 28 – Most of Friday had to be a little scary for the reigning champion Dux (11-0), who had beaten Lakeshore (8-3) in last season’s Semifinal by a much more comfortable 42-7.

New Boston Huron 44, Trenton 27 – The Chiefs (10-1) set a team record for wins and doubled last season’s total in beating Trenton (7-4) for their first District title. 


Lansing Sexton 41, Saginaw Swan Valley 20

Swan Valley running back Alex Grace finished one of the most incredible three-year varsity careers in MHSAA football history with 198 more rushing yards and three touchdowns to give him 2,426 and 36 this season and 7,551 yards and 99 rushing touchdowns for his career. His career yards rank third all-time and his TDs are second. But every time Grace made a play Friday – offensively and defensively as well – the Big Reds (11-0) seemed to respond. Sexton senior Ja’Von Wray ran for 235 yards and five touchdowns as his team scored more than the Vikings (10-1) had given up in any two games combined this fall. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Whitehall 41, Comstock Park 36 – Some termed the Vikings’ win “miraculous” as Whitehall (9-2) came back from 23 points down to win their first District title since 2003 and end the Panthers’ run at 6-5.

Edwardsburg 34, Vicksburg 6 – The Eddies (10-1) avenged a 16-14 loss to Vicksburg (8-3) in Week 3 to push into double-figure wins for the first time since 2010 and second time in program history; Vicksburg’s record was its best since 1993.

Eaton Rapids 20, Battle Creek Harper Creek 10 – The Greyhounds (8-3) have gone from never making the playoffs before 2013 to making their second Regional Final in a row, this time over near-annual playoff team Harper Creek (6-5). 


Almont 35, Marine City 7

The run to the 2011 Semifinals makes it tough to call this the best win in Almont history – but it has to be a close second to that season's Regional Final win over Jackson Lumen Christi. Marine City was the reigning Division 4 champion, in Division 5 for this fall’s playoffs, and 23-1 over the last two seasons with more than 1,000 points scored during that time. Almont held the Mariners (10-1) to their fewest points since the 2011 Division 4 Final and has given up a meager 56 points this season. The Raiders, meanwhile, ran for 294 yards and scored the most points Marine City had given up since last season’s championship game at Ford Field. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Reed City 22, Remus Chippewa Hills 21 – For the second straight week, Reed City (9-2) faced a rematch against a league rival, and Chippewa Hills (8-3) made this one much closer than the Coyotes’ 60-32 win in Week 8.

Flint Powers Catholic 19, Frankenmuth 15 – The Chargers (8-3) held on, on the road, in a rematch of the 2012 District Final in which they beat Frankenmuth (9-2) 34-0.

River Rouge 42, Ida 14 – The Panthers (10-1) reached double figure wins for the second time in three seasons and second time ever in ending the longest run for Ida (8-3) since 1990.  


Madison Heights Madison 32, Flint Beecher 6

Madison eliminated Beecher (10-1) for the second straight season to earn its fourth Regional Final berth in six seasons – and the opportunity to end Ithaca’s 11-player nation-best 67-game winning streak this week. Madison (9-2) scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to pull away while grounding a Beecher offense that hadn’t been held to single digits since 2012. Click for more from the Royal Oak Daily Tribune.

Also noted:

Leroy Pine River 34, Sanford Meridian 27 – Pine River (8-3) won a combined 11 games from 2009-13 and had never won a playoff game before two weeks ago; Meridian (8-3) did finish with its best record since 2009.

Watervliet 28, Schoolcraft 21 – Last season Watervliet won 10 straight before falling to Schoolcraft 28-26 in the District Final; this time Watervliet (10-1) has won 10 straight since falling opening night and avenged that loss to the Eagles (7-4).

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 50, Clinton 15 – The Falcons (10-1) won their sixth District title in seven seasons against last year’s Finals runner-up Clinton (10-1), which is 32-3 over the last three seasons.


Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 46, Whittemore-Prescott 0

Offensive firepower has gotten more attention during Seminary’s best season since 1994 – and Seminary scored 40 or more points for the seventh time this season. But Seminary (10-1) also has five shutouts and has given up only 96 points, particularly impressive this time given Whittemore-Prescott hadn’t been shut out since 2010. Whittemore-Prescott (10-1) also had beaten all of its opponents by at least 10 points this fall in earning its best record since 2002. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Ishpeming 20, Iron River West Iron County 7 – It had been nearly a year since a team had given Ishpeming (10-0) this much of a challenge, a positive for the Wykons (9-2) in falling to the Hematites in the District Final for the second straight season.

Pewamo-Westphalia 34, Hudson 27 – The Pirates (9-2) eliminated a league champion for the second straight week, this time Lenawee County Athletic Association power Hudson (9-2).

Bridgman 17, Cassopolis 14 – The Bees (8-2) set a program record for wins in claiming their first District title and ending Cassopolis at 7-4 for the second straight season.


Harbor Beach 39, Waterford Our Lady 21

The Pirates (11-0) are 46-4 over their last 50 games and earned their fourth straight District title against their toughest opponent this fall to date. Harbor Beach had given up only 31 points total entering Saturday’s tilt. But despite allowing a few more, the defense also came through with two touchdown returns off turnovers. Our Lady finished 9-2, one win better than last season. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Munising 24, St. Ignace 6 – The Mustangs (10-1) have double-digit wins for the first time since 1980 and another highlight after handing St. Ignace (10-1) its lone loss.

Beal City 53, Johannesburg-Lewiston 27 – The Aggies (9-2) have topped 50 points in both of their playoff games and ended the season for Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-2) for the third time in five years.

Morenci 42, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 22 – The Bulldogs (10-1) continued their best run since reaching the 1996 Finals by finishing a sweep of Tri-County Conference rival Whiteford (7-4).


Cedarville 28, Rapid River 0

The Trojans (10-1) will play in their first 8-player Semifinal after eliminating rival Rapid River (10-1), last season’s 8-player runner-up and the Bridge Football Alliance champion ahead of Cedarville the last two seasons. Cedarville fell just short against the Rockets, losing 20-19 in Week 6, but came on big in the rematch with a touchdown in each quarter. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Deckerville 72, Kingston 22 – Deckerville (9-2) won its second Regional title in three seasons by beating Kingston (7-4) a second time this fall; the Eagles won their first meeting only 14-8 in Week 2.

Peck 56, Morrice 8 – The Pirates (11-0) set up a Semifinal rematch with Lawrence by ending the first 8-player season for Morrice at a solid 6-5 – the Orioles’ best record since 2006.

Lawrence 50, Battle Creek St. Philip 14 – Lawrence (11-0) beat St. Philip (9-2) for the second time in three weeks and by scoring at least 50 points for the 10th time this fall.

PHOTO: Warren DeLaSalle, on offense, downed Detroit East English 21-14 in their Division 2 District Final. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Public School League.)

Inspired by Dad's Memory, Lawrence's Vasquez Emerges After Family Losses

By Pam Shebest
Special for

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.)