Drive for Detroit: Week 3 in Review

September 14, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Admittedly, last week's statewide slate of varsity football games didn't appear that intriguing on first glance.

Of course, that means we ended up with more noteworthy results than we expected – and some hard decisions picking which had the biggest impacts as we completed the first third of this season.

See below for five of the most significant finishes from every region of the state, plus links to coverage from those that stuck out most.

Bay & Thumb

Marlette 27, Reese 26

The Red Raiders are 3-0 for the fourth time in five seasons, but living a little on the edge after also beating Bad Axe by a point in Week 2. Reese (0-3) opened with 20 straight points, and took back the lead after Marlette’s first go-ahead score made it 21-20 during the second quarter. The Red Raiders took the lead back for good with a final score with just more than six minutes to play. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.

Also noted:

Pinconning 28, Whittemore-Prescott 6 – The Spartans (2-1) ended a five-game losing streak to the Cardinals (1-2), a 10-win team last season, with Pinconning’s start its best since its last playoff season of 2009.

Algonac 50, Imlay City 0 – The Muskrats’ story keeps getting better, with its 3-0 start equaling its best season finish since 2007 and its best start since 1972.

Lake Fenton 49, Montrose 21 – The Blue Devils (2-1) no doubt were happy to equal last season’s win total by contributing to the rival Rams’ first 1-2 start since 2009.

Saginaw Swan Valley 26, Alma 21 – The Vikings are finding their way post-Alex Grace, and moved to 2-1 by handing the Panthers (2-1) their first loss

Greater Detroit

Warren Mott 32, Macomb Dakota 27

After surging to a 26-0 lead, Mott held on against what was one of the state’s most impressive teams of the first two weeks. Dakota opened this fall by ending two-time reigning Division 1 champion Clarkston’s 27-game winning streak, then beat rival Clinton Township Chippewa Valley in Week 2. But Mott moved to 3-0 and in doing so gained nice footing in a Macomb Area Conference Red race that could be one of the most competitive in the state. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Also noted:

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 32, Sterling Heights Stevenson 28 – Quarterback Patrick Briningstool’s two touchdown passes during the final five minutes finished a late comeback for the Big Reds (2-1), who avenged last season’s loss to the Titans (2-1).

Detroit Martin Luther King 20, Detroit East English 15 – The Crusaders (3-0) withstood their first tough challenge of the Detroit Public School League schedule and earned their second win by five or fewer points while handing East English (2-1) its first loss.

Sterling Heights 13, St. Clair 10 – The Stallions won two games combined over the last two seasons but are 3-0 for the first time since 1987 after dropping St. Clair to 0-3.

West Bloomfield 35, Clarkston 21 – The Lakers moved to 3-0 for the first time since 1989 thanks in part to four TD runs by Trishton Jackson, while the tough early go continued for the Wolves (1-2). 


Grand Ledge 34, Lansing Sexton 32

Grand Ledge had to outlast a previously inexperienced but quickly improving Sexton team to reach 3-0 for the first time since 2011. After just one game of league play, the Comets look like strong favorites in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, with Jackson the only other team in the league with fewer than two losses overall. Sexton (0-3) hadn’t lost a league game since Week 8 of 2012. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

East Lansing 28, Jackson 21 – Before handing Jackson (2-1) its first loss, the Trojans (1-2) had fallen by only 13 and seven points, respectively, to teams a combined 5-1.

Dansville 40, Fulton 27 – The Aggies have solidified themselves as a top-four team in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference the last few seasons, and for the second year in a row will take on powers Pewamo-Westphalia and Fowler in back-to-back weeks off a 3-0 start.

St. Johns 49, Mason 28 – Seemingly forgotten again in a league with usual favorites DeWitt and Mason (2-1), St. Johns (2-1) looks every bit the contender in the CAAC Red. 

Eaton Rapids 34, Ionia 26 (2 OT) – These teams are in similar position in the CAAC White, both facing tough opponents ahead and Eaton Rapids (2-1) thankful for a slight upper hand as Ionia (1-2) must continue to build after a second loss by six or fewer points.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City Central 32, Traverse City West 26 (OT)

This season’s Patriot Game again went to Traverse City Central, which also celebrated the 600th win in program history and sits fifth all-time among Michigan high schools for varsity football victories. The Trojans (3-0) have beaten rival West (0-3) three of the last four seasons in the annual game at Thirlby Field. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Hillman 35, AuGres-Sims 20 – The Tigers (2-1) bounced back from a Week 2 loss to continue a recent winning streak over the North Star rival Wolverines (0-3).

Petoskey 38, Cadillac 13 – The Northmen (2-1) also bounced back from a Week 2 loss to down reigning Big North Conference champion Cadillac (0-3) for the first time since 2011.

Gaylord 17, Escanaba 7 – The Blue Devils (3-0) won this matchup of previous unbeatens, although Escanaba’s start remains its best since 2011.  

Grayling 30, Maple City Glen Lake 15 – The Vikings (2-1) got back on the right foot quickly after a big Week 2 loss to rival Gaylord by handing league foe Glen Lake (2-1) its first loss this fall. 

Southeast & Border

Morenci 22, Petersburg-Summerfield 8

Morenci’s success of a year ago wasn’t a one-time surge – the Bulldogs have now beaten three 2014 playoff teams to open this fall. Morenci has given up only single-digit points in nine its last 12 regular-season games, although the Tri-County Conference challenges should be tougher this time with Sand Creek rejuvenated and Clinton and Ottawa Lake-Whiteford both undefeated as well so far. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Brooklyn Columbia Central 26, Hillsdale 22 – The Eagles (3-0) won two games last season and hadn’t beaten Hillsdale (1-2) since 2011, including a 41-3 loss to the Hornets a year ago.

Homer 32, Concord 30 – The Trojans (2-1) took the momentum away from Concord (2-1), which had celebrated the week before a solid win over reigning Big Eight Conference champion Union City.

Jackson Lumen Christi 20, Battle Creek Harper Creek 17 – The Titans (3-0) remained undefeated with their second win this season by three points or fewer, and this one much closer than last year’s 34-14 win over Harper Creek (1-2).

Vandercook Lake 41, Addison 7 – The Jayhawks (3-0) early are outscoring opponents on average 36-7 during their best start since 2008. 

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central 7, Stevensville Lakeshore 6

This was the second time in four seasons these teams played to within a point of each other – the other two games were decided by three and 10 – and Portage Central avenged last season’s 20-17 loss in part by blocking Lakeshore’s extra-point try with just under 10 minutes to play. The Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West rivals have split their last four meetings – with the winner of this game going on to win the league title the last three seasons. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Also noted:

Battle Creek Central 35, Battle Creek Lakeview 27 – Central (1-2) broke a four-game losing streak against Lakeview (1-2) after scoring only seven points against the Spartans during those previous four matchups.

Delton Kellogg 21, Constantine 18 – The Panthers (2-1) had dropped all six meetings with Constantine (1-2) when the two were in the former Kalamazoo Valley Association, but are 1-0 against the Falcons now that they are in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Kalamazoo Central 18, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 6 – This gives the Maroon Giants (1-2) a 4-3 advantage over the recent history of this rivalry after Loy Norrix (1-2) won last season 20-19.

Coldwater 35, Battle Creek Pennfield 8 – The undefeated Cardinals (3-0) have yet to give up more than eight points in a game this fall and haven’t given up double digits in the regular season since Week 7 of 2014. 

Upper Peninsula

Bark River-Harris 56, Newberry 34

Every week the wins are getting more impressive for Bark River-Harris, which moved to 3-0 for the first  time since 2009 while handing Newberry (2-1) its first loss. The Broncos literally have doubled their offensive output every week this season, from 14 points in a one-point win over Crystal Falls Forest Park on opening night, to 28 against Gogebic last week and 56 on Friday. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Ishpeming Westwood 20, L’Anse 12 – The Patriots (2-1) won this first matchup between these two since the early 1990s, with L’Anse dropping its first game after two league wins.

Munising 12, Felch North Dickinson 8 – Make that 11 straight regular-season wins for the Mustangs (3-0), although the Nordics (1-2) gave them the toughest test during that run.

Iron Mountain 26, Iron River West Iron County 0 – The Mountaineers (2-0) avenged a 24-0 shutout from a year ago at the hands of the rival Wykons (0-3).

Sault Ste. Marie 35, Marquette 21 – The Blue Devils (2-1) broke a five-game losing streak to Marquette (0-3) to move to 2-1 for the first time since 2008. 

West Michigan

Muskegon 39, Grandville 12

Friday turned into a flood of historical references and national headlines from Michigan's west coast after Muskegon became the state's first high school football program to earn 800 varsity wins – which also puts the Big Reds tied for ninth in national high school history. They are 2-1 this season and 800-274-43 dating to 1895 (and watch for more on this on Second Half soon from MHSAA historian Ron Pesch, a Muskegon resident and the expert on the subject). Grandville fell to 2-1. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.  

Also noted:

East Grand Rapids 35, Caledonia 28 – With plenty of tough competition ahead, this was huge for the Pioneers (3-0) as Caledonia (2-1) also has been one of this area’s most impressive teams early.

Zealand East 39, Hudsonville 33 – Last season’s uncharacteristic 2-7 finish for East (3-0) included a 40-0 loss to Hudsonville (2-1), making this a pretty significant turnaround to say the least.

Ada Forest Hills Eastern 48, Grand Rapids West Catholic 15 – This is a signature win for the still-emerging coach Eddie Ostipow era at Forest Hills Eastern (3-0); the Hawks had dropped all three of their recent meetings with the two-time reigning Division 5 champion.

Muskgon Mona Shores 31, Rockford 10 – Last season’s three-point loss to Rockford (1-2) was Mona Shores’ only defeat of the regular season; the Sailors (3-0) might be even stronger this fall and will have more opportunities to prove it. 


Rapid River 28, Cedarville 14 – As explained last week, Cedarville’s only regular-season losses of the last three years have come, now three times, to the Rockets (3-0). But for the first time since both moved to 8-player football, they aren’t in the same league – which means a possible rematch in the playoffs for the second straight year would mean infinitely more than this appetizer.

Also noted:

Peck 28, Kinde-North Huron 22 – The generally-powerful Pirates came back from a significant Week 2 loss to Morrice by taking an early upper hand in the North Central Thumb 8-Man League.

Powers North Central 76, Bellaire 14 – Circle Week 8 against Rapid River on the North Central schedule; the Jets (3-0), in their first season of 8-player, are looking that dangerous after winning big over another of the annual powers in Bellaire (2-1).

PHOTO: St. Louis, here adding a few more points in last week's 38-6 win over Breckenridge, is 3-0 for the first time since 1978. (Click for 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.)