Drive for Detroit: Week 2 in Review

September 9, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

After two weeks of this high school football season, it’s impossible to know how much of what we’re seeing now will be applicable by playoff time or even later this month.

But there are a number of teams we’ve highlighted in our Week 2 “review” that should be feeling pretty good about what they’ve shown us so far.

Many of the 45 achievers below are regularly mentioned in this report. Others likely are considered surprises at this point – but might not be for much longer.

"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Freeland 29, Essexville Garber 20 A 2-0 start isn’t unfamiliar to the Falcons – they’ve begun with two straight wins every season this decade. But coming off last week’s one-point victory over Marshall, this win over the Dukes also is noteworthy for the way Freeland (2-0) held on through the end – especially against a Garber team that opened with a nice win against Boyne City and just missed the playoffs a year ago. This also was an opener in the new-look Tri-Valley Conference Central, which includes most of the best from the East and Central over the past few seasons. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Watch list Midland 45, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 0 Although the Cavaliers (0-2) have stumbled so far, Midland’s opening run still needs some mention with this win added to the opening victory over Traverse City West. The Chemics started 0-2 against the same two teams a year ago and still finished 9-4 and made the Division 2 Semifinals.

Remember this one Lapeer 43, Midland Dow 6 The Chargers (0-2) have made the playoffs six years in a row, so Lapeer (1-1) bouncing back from its opening-night loss to Lake Orion in a big way deserves notice.

More shoutouts Saginaw Arthur Hill 40, Flint Southwestern 16 The Lumberjacks (1-1) ended a 25-game losing streak with their highest-scoring performance since 2013. Flint Kearsley 28, Ann Arbor Huron 6 A second win over a larger opponent has the Hornets (2-0) a win away from equaling last season’s total as they play for their first winning record since 2003.  

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Birmingham Groves 24, West Bloomfield 17 The Lakers (1-1) have been considered among early Division 1 championship favorites this fall and had beaten Groves in back-to-back nonleague matchups over the last two seasons. But this shouldn’t be considered entirely stunning by the Falcons (2-0), who finished 10-3 last season and made the Division 2 Semifinals. The ending, on the other hand, was a little wild with a pair of late special teams fumbles turning into scores, including the game-winner. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Watch list Lake Orion 37, Southfield Arts & Technology 7 The Dragons (2-0) have put themselves in the spotlight quickly with two impressive wins after also downing Lapeer in the opener. The run is especially notable after the team’s 0-2 starts the last two seasons.  

Remember this one Romeo 37, Port Huron Northern 6 Romeo is 2-0 for the first time since its Division 1 championship season of 2015, winning big against a Northern team that went 10-2 last season and won big as well in its opener this fall.

More shoutouts Warren Michigan Collegiate 30, Flint Beecher 6 The Cougars (2-0) roll into this week’s matchup with Detroit Country Day with an impressive win over a Bucs team that went 8-4 last season and started this fall with a sizable win. South Lyon 29, Trenton 21 The Lions are picking up where they left off after winning the Lakes Valley Conference in 2018, with Trenton (1-1) providing a strong challenge as it looks to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season.  


HEADLINER Portland 29, DeWitt 27 This very well could end up the game of the regular season in the Lansing area, with two of the region’s most successful programs facing off and the reigning Division 5 runner-up Raiders holding the Panthers off during a scoreless fourth quarter. DeWitt (1-1) had won 18 straight regular-season games and is 77-8 during the regular season this decade. Portland (2-0) has now won 18 straight regular-season games and 37 of its last 38. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Holt 22, Hudsonville 21 Welcome back Rams. A pair of 3-6 finishes the last two seasons were helped along in part by 0-2 starts. But Holt is 2-0 for the first time since 2007 and after deciding to go for a 2-point conversion and the win late against the Eagles (1-1).

Remember this one Ithaca 16, Millington 0 The Yellowjackets (2-0) avenged last season’s playoff opener loss to the Cardinals (0-2), and now they are in the same league.

More shoutouts St. Johns 46, Ann Arbor Pioneer 33 After being shut out by East Lansing last week, the Redwings (1-1) bounced back by avenging a 2018 one-point loss to Pioneer (1-1). Lansing Catholic 56, Grand Rapids West Catholic 28 After two games this fall the Cougars have scored 112 points – nearly one-third of their total over 11 games a year ago – and this week beat the always playoff-bound Falcons (0-2) for the second straight season.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Maple City Glen Lake 28, Traverse City St. Francis 7 September isn’t two weeks old, but it’s hard to not anticipate some good things ahead for the Lakers (2-0) after they opened with a win over Millington and followed up by breaking an eight-game losing streak against the Gladiators (1-1) this weekend. St. Francis won last year’s meeting 50-12 and hadn’t been held to single digits in a regular-season game since 2013. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.

Watch list Traverse City Central 37, Marquette 28 After falling to DeWitt by just five points at home Week 1, the Trojans (1-1) hit the road and ran their winning streak to six straight over Marquette (0-2).

Remember this one Charlevoix 18, Boyne City 14 The Rayders (2-0) won just once in 2018 and last opened with two straight wins in 2016, when they also last made the playoffs.

More shoutouts Cheboygan 8, Grayling 6 The Chiefs (1-1) are working toward their first playoff berth since 2013 and are a step closer after ending a recent three-game losing streak to Grayling (1-1). McBain 31, Roscommon 0 The Ramblers (1-1) also bounced back from a Week 1 loss by downing a Bucks team that is so far winless but finished 10-2 a year ago.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Erie Mason 80, Britton Deerfield 42 These two tied for the 14th-most points in an 11-player game where the losing team put up at least 40, and Erie Mason improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2003 while guaranteeing to tie its best finish for an entire season since 2005. Through two weeks quarterback Noah Beaudrie has thrown for 473 yards and six touchdowns and run for 509 and eight scores. The Patriots (1-1), meanwhile, upped their season scoring average to 35 ppg despite the defeat.

Watch list Clinton 45, Blissfield 13 Last season’s Tri-County Conference runner-up Clinton (2-0) will enter league play 2-0 for the first time since 2016 after avenging last season’s loss to the Royals (1-1), who opened this fall with a 19-point win over reigning TCC champion Ottawa Lake Whiteford.

Remember this one Sand Creek 31, Adrian Lenawee Christian 28 The Aggies (2-0) also play in the strong TCC, so this last-minute win over postseason regular Lenawee Christian (1-1) could end up a difference-maker when playoff selection time rolls around.

More shoutouts Jackson Lumen Christi 22, Parma Western 7 The Titans (2-0) pushed their winning streak to 25, and if it continues to grow this Interstate 8 Athletic Conference opener could be looked back at as key with Western (1-1) staying close into the fourth quarter. Temperance Bedford 20, Flushing 19 Bedford bounced back from a Week 1 loss to earn what could be a key win for its playoff hopes against a Flushing team that has made the last two postseasons but finds itself 0-2 with those defeats by a combined 12 points.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Portage Northern 14, Stevensville Lakeshore 6 In keeping with recent history, this matchup was decided by eight or fewer points for the eighth time in nine seasons and gives reigning league co-champ Northern (2-0) a valuable early edge in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West race. But 2017 champ Lakeshore is far from being out of it, and a few more contenders also could have a say. Click for more from and see below for highlights from FOX 17.

Watch list Kalamazoo Central 40, Portage Central 27 Defeating Portage Central last season was the first sign of Kalamazoo Central’s rise that turned into a league title and its first playoff berth since 2004. So the Maroon Giants (1-1) should be excited about the possibilities after bouncing back from last week’s one-point defeat to Mattawan with another notable victory over the annually-strong Mustangs (1-1).

Remember this one Cassopolis 28, Mendon 0 The Rangers (2-0) ran their scoring margin for the season to an early 78-0 advantage and earned a significant edge in their quest to repeat as Southwest 10 Conference champions, as 2017 winner Mendon (1-1) is always in the hunt as well.

More shoutouts Watervliet 22, Saugatuck 14 This was a major win as the Panthers (1-1) work to rebound from last season’s 2-7 finish; Saugatuck (1-1) was 9-2 a year ago and has won at least that many games four straight seasons. Battle Creek Lakeview 28, Mattawan 12 The Spartans (2-0) have had a few tough seasons but with this win tied their victory total of a year ago and against a Mattawan team that has made the playoffs two straight years. 

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Iron Mountain 42, Ishpeming Westwood 22 Two weeks into the season, Iron Mountain (2-0) could have its two main obstacles out of the way as it looks to challenge reigning champion Calumet in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper. This week’s win followed up last week’s over Negaunee, and the Copper Kings await in Week 6. Westwood (1-1) was second and Iron Mountain third in the league last season. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Watch list Ishpeming 36, Lake Linden-Hubbell 34 The Hematites (2-0) are reigning champions in the West-PAC Iron and setting themselves up to be in the mix again, although the Lakes (1-1) could still find themselves in contention as well with a little help.

Remember this one Manistique 28, Gwinn 8 The Emeralds broke a 21-game losing streak on the field (not counting forfeits for games not played last season) with their first win since Week 9 of 2015.

More shoutouts Gladstone 20, Gaylord 7 The Braves (2-0) are halfway to last year’s win total with this one over a Gaylord team that made the playoffs last season and now sits 1-1 this fall. Sault Ste. Marie 20, Alpena 14 The Blue Devils (2-0) also downed a Big North Conference opponent, avenging last season’s loss to the Wildcats (0-2).

West Michigan

HEADLINER Muskegon 41, Detroit Martin Luther King 18 It’s impossible to not lead with Muskegon for the second straight week after the Big Reds defeated their second reigning MHSAA champion already this fall. And this one surely meant a little more as it came in a rematch of last season’s Division 3 championship game, won by King 41-25. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Watch list Caledonia 19, Cedar Springs 12 The Fighting Scots’ Week 1 loss to Holt is looking even better after Holt beat Hudsonville, and this victory over Cedar Springs (1-1) says a lot about Caledonia’s potential heading into Ottawa-Kent Conference Red play starting this week.

Remember this one Byron Center 33, Middleville Thornapple Kellogg 14 After two straight sub-.500 seasons, the Bulldogs (2-0) also could be on their way to big things after sending the Trojans to 1-1.

More shoutouts Rockford 24, Lowell 7 The Rams evened these teams’ latest four-game series at 2-2 and moved to 2-0 to start a season for the first time since 2014. Zeeland West 48, Grand Rapids Christian 27 The Dux (2-0) added to their opening-night win over East Grand Rapids with another impressive one, as the Eagles (0-2) likely will be in the mix again in the O-K Gold.


HEADLINER Pellston 42, Posen 38 The Hornets finished 4-5 in their first season of 8-player football in 2018, winning four of their final six games. This fall they’re off to a 2-0 start, and a first winning season since 1995 might become part of the conversation soon. Pellston scored the go-ahead touchdown against Posen (0-2) with 5:03 to play after trailing by 18 midway through the third quarter. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.

Watch list Vestaburg 22, North Adams-Jerome 6 The Wolverines (2-0) moved to 8-player football this fall, and so far so good after finishing 0-9 last season and 1-8 in 2017.  

Remember this one Bridgman 46, St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 8 It also will be interesting to see how this first season of 8-player goes for Bridgman, which has outscored its first two opponents by a combined 102-24.  

More shoutouts Martin 20, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 0 Martin (2-0) also is a first-year 8-player program and its scores the last two weeks have been much closer, but against two of the traditional best in Bellevue and this week Tri-unity (0-2). Powers North Central 62, Rapid River 6 These Jets (2-0) are scoring like the title-winning Jets of a few seasons ago, with a combined 128 points over their first two games.

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PHOTO: A Marquette defender closes in Friday as Traverse City Central quarterback Peyton Smith decides if he will hand off or keep the ball. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)