Drive for Detroit: Week 3 in Review

September 10, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Just like that, we're three weeks into another Michigan high school football season. 

And just like that, the picture of what we might expect this fall is beginning to get a little bit clearer.

There are 128 undefeated teams setting the pace. Some we're used to seeing at the top, and a number of others are enjoying encouraging turnarounds early this fall.

Below we offer glances at 45 games that popped from the page this past weekend, and we're just beginning to tell the story. 

“Drive for Detroit” is powered by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER: Davison 36, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 29 These Flint-area powers haven’t been in the same league since 2013, but Davison (3-0) ran its winning streak over Carman-Ainsworth (2-1) to three straight with a late score and win in the Saginaw Valley League Blue opener. Click for more from the Flint Journal and see below for highlights from WJRT.

Also of note: Flint Hamady 24, Flint Beecher 18 With the other three Genesee Area Blue teams starting out a combined 2-7, Hamady might be in nice shape already to win its first league title since 2007. The rival Buccaneers (1-2), however, are hoping to turn things around quickly as they seek to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Remember this one: Sandusky 28, Ubly 22 These two and Harbor Beach have been in the mix for most of the Greater Thumb Conference East titles this decade; Sandusky (3-0) has an early upper hand this time, but Ubly (2-1) will be waiting for a trip-up.

Other shoutouts: Saginaw Swan Valley 41, Freeland 3 The Vikings (3-0) have looked unstoppable early, this time winning big against the rival Falcons (2-1). Cass City 40, Marlette 14 The Red Hawks (2-1) have bounced back from a Week 1 loss with two big wins including this one over a Marlette team that beat Harbor Beach in Week 2.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER: Oak Park 23, Farmington Hills Harrison 15 In successive weeks, Oak Park (3-0) has defeated Birmingham Groves and now Harrison (2-1), the teams with which it shared the Oakland Activities Association White championship a year ago. The Knights are impressing especially on defense, giving up just under 12 points per game. Click for more from the Oakland Press and see highlights below from State Champs! Sports Network. 

Also of note: Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 45, Utica Eisenhower 24 The Big Reds (3-0) are the team to chase in the prestigious Macomb Area Conference Red after this win over last season’s champion Eisenhower (1-2) – which edged Chippewa Valley 49-42 a year ago in the game that eventually decided the title.

Remember this one: Lake Orion 28, Rochester Adams 24 The Dragons (1-2) had a tough 2017, which included a 39-8 defeat to Adams (2-1). But they got their first win this fall by handing a first loss to the reigning OAA Red co-champ.

More shoutouts: Canton 47, Plymouth 26 The Chiefs (2-1) handed the neighboring Wildcats (2-1) their first loss as the rivalry started a new chapter with both teams boasting new coaches. Dearborn Heights Crestwood 22, Romulus 20 Crestwood last was 3-0 in 1991, according to, and equaled last season’s overall win total by downing a reigning league champion in the Eagles (0-3).


HEADLINER: East Lansing 31, Grand Ledge 28 This one told a lot about one of mid-Michigan football’s premier leagues. East Lansing, last season’s Capital Area Activities Conference Blue runner-up, now looks most likely to provide newcomer DeWitt the biggest challenge in this fall’s league race. But Friday also showed reigning champion Grand Ledge has the opportunity to make an impact despite graduating much of last year’s team. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also of note: Greenville 41, Lowell 35 (OT) The Red Arrows (0-3) are having rare struggles to open this fall, but beating them is still a huge accomplishment – and Greenville (1-2) had dropped three games to Lowell over the last two seasons, including once in the playoffs.

Remember this one: Williamston 21, Fowlerville 14 These two are main reasons the CAAC Red has a new look this fall, and Williamston (3-0) has an early advantage on contending for the league title – although much-improved Fowlerville (2-1) showed it can’t be counted out.

More shoutouts: Clare 42, Harrison 18 Harrison (1-2) remains the last team to beat Clare (3-0) in the Jack Pine Conference – back in Week 9 of 2015. Holt 14, Traverse City West 7 Downing a 2017 playoff team like West (1-2) is a great sign for Holt (1-2), especially after the Rams opened with losses to two more tough nonleague foes.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER: Lake City 14, McBain 12 Recall that the Trojans (3-0) stormed back from 2-7 in 2016 to 12-1 last fall, and that they earned the Highland Conference title because of a 28-8 win over eventual runner-up McBain in Week 3. The Ramblers (1-2) made this one closer, but Lake City’s 12-game regular-season winning streak lives on. Click for more from the Cadillac News and see highlights below from MI Sports Now. 

Also of note: Manton 28, Beal City 22 The Rangers (3-0) were last 3-0 in their most recent playoff season, 2014, and hadn’t beaten Highland Conference foe Beal City (0-3) since joining the league in 2007.

Remember this one: Cheboygan 22, Boyne City 6 The Northern Michigan Football League Legends division could be shifting as Cheboygan (1-2) handed the reigning champion Ramblers (1-2) their first league defeat after a perfect run a year ago.

More shoutouts: West Branch Ogemaw Heights 18, Wyoming Kelloggsville 14 Kelloggsville (1-2) is struggling after last season’s 10-1 finish, but regardless this is big for Ogemaw Heights (1-2) as it equaled its win total for the last three seasons combined. Manistee 33, Ludington 14 The Chippewas (3-0) have bounced back from last season’s 2-7 finish and handed Ludington (2-1) its first defeat to start Lakes 8 Conference play.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER: Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 20, Riverview 6 St. Mary (2-1) has played three 2017 playoff teams to open this fall, including reigning Huron League champion Riverview (2-1). The Falcons are chasing in the league after falling to Milan last week, but now will cheer for Riverview to take down Milan this week and open the league race all the way back up. Click for more from the Southgate News-Herald. 

Also of note: Dundee 33, Hudson 6 The Vikings (3-0) equaled last season’s win total by defeating the reigning Lenawee County Athletic Association champion Tigers (2-1), a big step as Dundee seeks its first playoff berth since 2012.

Remember this one: Brooklyn Columbia Central 21, Ida 20 These are two more contenders in the LCAA, with Ida (2-1) last season’s runner-up and Columbia Central (3-0) one of the new favorites.

More shoutouts: Jackson 27, Monroe 20 The Southeastern Conference is treating Jackson (3-0) well. Although this was just a crossover, the win over Monroe (2-1) was impressive and with two league victories to begin the fall gave the Vikings their best start since 2003. Dexter 37, Ann Arbor Huron 14 A week after breaking a 42-game losing streak, Dexter (2-1) guaranteed its best finish since 2011.

Southwest Corridor 

HEADLINER: Hartford 26, Mendon 24 (OT) Mendon does not lose often during the regular season; in fact, the Hornets were riding a 21-game regular-season winning streak before Hartford pulled off this headline grabber. Mendon had won last year’s meeting 41-14 on the way to claiming the first Southwest 10 Conference title. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium and see below for highlights from FOX 17.

Also of note: Portage Central 21, Portage Northern 20 Central (2-1) scored the go-head touchdowns during the final minutes to bounce back from a Week 2 loss and make it five straight over the rival Huskies (2-1).

Remember this one: Berrien Springs 41, Schoolcraft 28 The Shamrocks (2-1) opened this season with a loss but have bounced back with two solid wins including this one over a Schoolcraft team that has made the playoffs nine straight seasons and also sits 2-1.

More shoutouts: Delton Kellogg 28, Fennville 7 The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since 2009 after handing Fennville (2-1) its lone defeat. Battle Creek Central 30, Battle Creek Lakeview 15 Central’s second straight win over Lakeview (0-3) put the Bearcats at 3-0 after they won three games total both of the last two seasons.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER: Calumet 14, Ishpeming Westwood 12 A few late defensive stops could end up being the difference in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference large-school title race as Calumet (3-0) hung on to deal Westwood (2-1) its first defeat. The Copper Kings have playoff-caliber Iron River West Iron County and Norway next, but both are in the league’s other division. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Also of note: Ishpeming 46, Norway 19 The West PAC small-school division is loaded, but with this win it looks like Ishpeming (3-0) and West Iron might be favorites with Norway (2-1) on the chase.

Remember this one: Gladstone 14, Menominee 0 The Braves (2-1) didn’t play Menominee (0-3) last season, but before that hadn’t beaten the Maroons during their yearly series since 2008. Menominee shares the longest active playoff streak of 22 seasons with Rockford, but must win out to guarantee pushing it to 23.

More shoutouts: Escanaba 27, Detroit Loyola 24 After a Week 1 loss, Escanaba (2-1) has won two games by four points combined, with this one over rejuvenated Loyola (2-1). Negaunee 30, Hancock 29 The Miners (1-2) needed this after a tough start, and got past a Hancock team that’s also 2-1 and coming off its best season since 2006.

West Michigan

HEADLINER: Holland West Ottawa 45, Rockford 40 The Ottawa-Kent Conference Red season is one week old, but West Ottawa (3-0) made quite an opening statement with its third straight win over the perennially powerful Rams (1-2) – coincidentally all three have been decided by five points. This time quarterback Isaac VanDyke scored with 20 seconds to play to extend the streak. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel and see highlights below from WZZM.

Also of note: Muskegon Orchard View 32, Muskegon Catholic Central 14 The Cardinals (1-2) didn’t have the greatest start with two 20+ point losses, but beating MCC (1-2) for the first time since 1966 could be the beginning of a turnaround.

Remember this one: Muskegon 49, East Grand Rapids 21 The Big Reds (3-0) were the state’s biggest story after two huge wins to open this season, but they trailed East Grand Rapids (1-2) by 14 in this game before scoring 42 unanswered points.

More shoutouts: Grandville 37, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 36 The Bulldogs (1-2) are on the board after losses to two reigning MHSAA champions to start the season, but the Rangers (1-2) might also be one of the state’s best 1-2 teams after falling by just a point two straight weeks. Wayland 19, Grand Rapids South Christian 14 Wayland (3-0) has equaled its win total of both the last two seasons thanks to its first victory over the Sailors (2-1) since 2007.


HEADLINER: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 22, Deckerville 12 The Irish brought a tradition of success from 11-player this fall, and the transition appears to be going smoothly as they moved to 2-1 with this win over the reigning 8-player Division 1 runner-up. The Eagles (1-2) have lost two straight but to teams that are a combined 5-1. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Also of note: Pickford 38, Crystal Falls Forest Park 20 The Panthers (3-0) avenged last season’s 8-Player Division 2 Semifinal loss to the eventual champion Trojans (1-2). 

Remember this one: Brethren 42, Marion 20 Brethren (2-1) sits alone atop the West Michigan D League standings with this win over the reigning champion Eagles, a 54-0 winner in last year’s meeting. 

More shoutouts: Genesee 8, New Haven Merritt 6 In its first season of 8-player, Genesee is 3-0 – after winning a combined three games over the last three seasons. Merritt (1-2), meanwhile, has two losses by a combined eight points. Camden-Frontier 44, Portland St. Patrick 0 The Redskins (3-0) have outscored their opponents by a combined 169-6 and handed the reigning 8-player Division 2 runner-up Shamrocks (2-1) their first shutout since 2014.

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PHOTO: East Lansing and Grand Ledge players work to secure the ball during Friday's Trojans win. (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.)