Drive for Detroit: Week 12 in Review

November 17, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The third weekend of this season's MHSAA Football Playoffs was highlighted by the continuation of one of the state's most impressive winning streaks – and the finishes of two others of note.

Ithaca emerged from a fourth-quarter deficit against Madison Heights Madison to win another Division 6 Regional title and push its winning streak to 68 games, the longest 11-player streak in the country. 

But there will be a new Division 2 champion; reigning three-time title-winner Birmingham Brother Rice fell to Catholic League rival Warren DeLaSalle. And for the first time in its short MHSAA history, the 8-player tournament will have a champion not from Michigan's thumb – 2013 champion Peck and 2012 winner Deckerville both were eliminated in Semifinals. 

We touch briefly below on both 8-player games and all 32 11-player Regional Finals, with links to additional coverage of the games of particular note. 


Cedarville 36, Deckerville 20

Cedarville eliminated a former champion to earn an opportunity to win its first title. The Trojans (11-1) put up 36 points despite playing through a blizzard and facing powerful Deckerville (9-3), which finished this fall with its only losses against the other teams in the Semifinals – Cedarville, Lawrence and Peck. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.

Lawrence 66, Peck 40

This was a reversal of last season’s Semifinal between these teams, and Lawrence (12-0) hopes to now finish similarly as Peck when it won last season's championship. The Tigers again rode the many talents of quarterback Derek Gribler, who ran for 280 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 271 yards and six scores in one of the most impressive performances in the MHSAA’s young 8-player history. Peck finished 11-1 and had beaten Lawrence 73-34 in last season’s Semifinal before taking down Rapid River for the championship. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.


Saline 42, Canton 35

Saline (11-1) advanced to the Semifinals for the first time, in the process setting a team record for wins; in fact, the Hornets’ two best finishes have come during the last three years. But it wasn’t without a wild finish. Canton ran for nearly 400 yards, and Saline quarterback Josh Jackson repeatedly matched – with the Hornets’ defense then coming up big at the end. The Chiefs (9-3) did post their best record since 2010. Click for more from

Other Regional Finals:

East Kentwood 31, Hudsonville 14 – The Falcons (11-1) made their first Semifinal since 2002 by winning a rematch against surging Hudsonville (7-5) after claiming the first meeting 35-28.

Clarkston 40, Walled Lake Central 22 – The reigning champion Wolves (12-0) ended the longest run for Walled Lake Central (9-3) since 2011.

Detroit Cass Tech 48, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 35 – Wow; Cass Tech running back Mike Weber ran for 404 yards and five touchdowns as the Technicians (12-0) won their 12th game for the fourth season in five and ended the longest run for Chippewa Valley (8-4) since 2004. 


Warren DeLaSalle 26, Birmingham Brother Rice 21

As well as DeLaSalle (9-3) has played over the last month, this still has to count as a stunner – although DeLaSalle has been on the verge of a such a power move all season. DeLaSalle’s three losses came during one disappointing run – by seven to Brother Rice in Week 4, four to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Week 5 and then to Dearborn Fordson by four in Week 6. Those opponents are a combined 31-4 with St. Mary’s still alive in Division 3. This win earned the Pilots their fourth Semifinal berth over the last nine years – and ended a four-year Brother Rice run of 47-7. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Muskegon Mona 39, Battle Creek Lakeview 0 – The offensively-powerful Sailors (11-1) put up their best defensive performance by handing Lakeview (9-2) its first shutout since 2012.

Farmington Hills Harrison 23, Flushing 10 – The Raiders (9-3) ended with their best record since 1997, but Harrison (10-2) moved on to its four Semifinal over the last decade.

Southfield 35, Wyandotte Roosevelt 7 – The Bluejays (9-3) have come back off a Week 9 loss to make the Semifinals for the first time since 2008; Roosevelt (9-3) can still celebrate extending its District title string to four straight.


Zeeland West 30, Lowell 27

The reigning Division 3 champion Dux (12-0) survived a second-straight close call after defeating Stevensville Lakeshore by only two in the District Final. Dakota Guerink and Nick Jasch both ran for two touchdowns and West’s defense made a late stop to ice the win. Lowell’s Max Dean capped a solid season with four more touchdown runs as the Red Arrows (10-2) finished with double-figure wins for the eighth time in nine seasons and 12th in 15 years. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.

Other Regional Finals:

Muskegon 42, Petoskey 7 – The Big Reds (11-1) have scored 128 points in three playoff games in advance of facing Zeeland West this week; Petoskey (9-3) finished four wins better than 2013 and made a Regional Final for the first time since 1998.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 49, Mason 10 – The Eaglets (10-2) have now doubled last season’s win total and made their sixth Semifinal in eight seasons; Mason (8-4) made its first Regional Final since 1995 despite a 1-3 start this fall.

New Boston Huron 38, Redford Thurston 29 – Huron’s best season ever continues as the Chiefs (11-1) won their fifth straight by at least 10 points while Thurston can still celebrate a District title despite also opening this fall 1-3.


Detroit Country Day 21, Chelsea 0

As an at-large qualifier, Country Day (8-4) has cruised through the playoffs somewhat under the radar. But keep in mind that its losses this fall were to three reigning MHSAA champions – Brother Rice, Zeeland West and Division 8 Muskegon Catholic Central – and reigning Division 7 runner-up Detroit Loyola. The Yellowjackets have been nothing if not steady during the playoffs, outscoring their opponents by a combined 77-6 – with Chelsea (9-3) suffering its only loss of more than seven points this fall but after bouncing back from 2-7 a year ago. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Grand Rapids South Christian 49, Whitehall 14 – The Sailors (10-2) made it 10 straight and nine straight by double figures in advancing to the Semifinals for the third straight season; Whitehall finished 9-3 after going 1-8 only a year ago.

Edwardsburg 42, Eaton Rapids 8 – The Eddies are back in the Semifinals for the first time since 2010 with their third game in four weeks holding an opponent under 10 points; Eaton Rapids finished its second playoff season 8-4, a win better than its first playoff season a year ago.

Lansing Sexton 35, Richmond 7 – The Big Reds (12-0) booked their return to the Semifinals by locking down an offense averaging 40 points per game for Richmond (10-2) entering the weekend.


Menominee 43, Freeland 35

Menominee’s offense has been typical of the Maroons (12-0) – they’re 12 points from scoring 600 for the second straight year and have averaged more than 40 per game three of the last four seasons. But a defensive stand late finally stopped Freeland (10-2) in this back-and-forth battle that ended with Menominee heading to the Semifinals for the third straight season – to face Grand Rapids West Catholic, last year’s opponent in the Division 5 Final. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Other Regional Finals:

Grand Rapids West Catholic 56, Reed City 28 – Although Reed City (9-3) became only the second team to score this many points on the Falcons, West Catholic (12-0) broke 50 for the first time since Week 2.

Lansing Catholic 49, Flint Powers Catholic 21 – The Cougars (12-0) have arrived in the Semifinals for the second time in four seasons by outscoring their playoff opponents 180-35, although Powers (8-4) put up the most points among the three teams eliminated.

Almont 35, River Rouge 12 – Make this officially the best season in Almont history at 12-0 and the Raiders’ defense arguably the most impressive in the state (still giving up only 5.7 points per game); River Rouge (10-2) hadn’t lost since Week 2 and finished with double-figure wins for the second time in three seasons. 


Ithaca 41, Madison Heights Madison 27

With a quarter to play, Ithaca’s winning streak was in danger for one of the few times since it began opening night of 2010. The Yellowjackets (12-0) trailed 27-19, an unfamiliar spot for a team that rarely has had to come back during the last five seasons. But they scored 22 unanswered points over the final seven minutes to give a signature win to a current group of younger players that didn’t play a large role in Ithaca’s runs of the last four seasons. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Other Regional Finals:

Boyne City 28, Leroy Pine River 16 – The Ramblers (12-0) are back in the Semifinals for the first time since 2001 after ending the longest playoff run ever for Pine River (8-4).

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 41, Watervliet 35 – The Mustangs (11-1) have built steadily to this first Regional title over their seven seasons of football; Watervliet’s end was heart-breaking as it was the second time in four seasons the Panthers (10-2) fell in a Regional by a touchdown.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 27, Jackson Lumen Christi 26 – Only the possibility of Ithaca’s winning streak ending kept this from being the main game in Division 6, as St. Mary (11-1) returned to the Semifinal by handing Lumen Christi (11-1) its lone loss despite more than 400 yards rushing by Khari Willis. 


Detroit Loyola 60, New Lothrop 26

Loyola (12-0) pulled one victory closer to returning to Ford Field for the third straight season by winning big in this matchup of undefeated teams. Marvin Campbell, the team’s top running back during its 2013 run as well, had five touchdowns as Loyola got ahead early and never trailed. It was the third time in four seasons New Lothrop (11-1) had reached the Regional Final; the Hornets haven’t lost a regular season game since 2009. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Ishpeming 22, Traverse City St. Francis 13 – The two-time reigning champion Hematites (11-0) stood strong against a challenge in their first game this season decided by fewer than 10 points; St. Francis finished its best since 2011 at 11-2.

Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 44, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 8 – The Cardinals are back in the Semifinals for the first time since winning the Class D title in 1986; Laker’s lone loss this season ended their best run since 2002 at 11-1.

Pewamo-Westphalia 53, Bridgman 12 – The Pirates (10-2) have become regulars at this stage of the playoffs with four straight Regional Final appearances and three titles during that time; Bridgman ended its longest playoff run at 8-3 and with a team record for wins. 


Munising 43, Crystal Falls Forest Park 14

The road downstate in Division 8 generally goes through Crystal Falls Forest Park – and Munising traveled it well this weekend, figuratively speaking. This Regional Final was moved to the Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University, and the Mustangs (10-1) left with their second Regional title and first since 1980. Forest Park (9-1) had made Semifinals in eight of the previous 10 seasons before suffering this first in-state loss this fall – the Trojans’ other defeat was by four to Hurley of Wisconsin. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Other Regionals Finals:

Beal City 28, Baldwin 0 – The Aggies (10-2) returned to the Semifinals for the third straight year by shutting down an offense for Baldwin (10-2) averaging 47 points per game heading into the weekend.

Muskegon Catholic Central 48, Mendon 7 – The Crusaders (12-0) again made quick work of a former MHSAA champion, with Mendon (10-2) joining Fowler and Fulton among those that have fallen to MCC this postseason.

Harbor Beach 21, Morenci 7 – Morenci (10-2) had been strong on defense and held Harbor Beach (12-0) to half its 46-ppg average, but also was held to a season low.

PHOTO: Zeeland West advanced past Lowell 30-27 in a snowy Division 3 Regional Final. (Click to see more from

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.)