Drive for Detroit: Week 5 Preview

September 22, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

There are 100 undefeated Michigan high school football teams at the midpoint of this season. Another 136 teams have only one loss heading into Week 5, which will be played out in most places tonight.

Eventually every fall, the elite emerge from all of those with great starts. And this looks like it's going to be that week for the 2015 season. 

A number of our undefeated teams take on those from the group with one loss. Many of those matchups are mentioned below in this week’s Drive for Detroit preview, powered by MI Student Aid. Many more may be discussed in Monday's review of the weekend; be sure to tune back in then. 

To see the weekend's full schedule, check out the MHSAA Score Center. All games below are Friday unless noted.

Bay & Thumb

Millington (4-0) at Frankenmuth (4-0)

A year doesn’t go by when this isn’t one of the must-see games from the Saginaw Bay area. There’s just too much history between the two; Millington has handed Frankenmuth its only two Tri-Valley Conference East losses over the last five seasons, and three of the Cardinals’ five league losses over the last five seasons came to the Eagles. Frankenmuth owns the most recent victory, 28-7 last year, and has outscored four opponents by a combined 150-20 this fall. Millington’s margin so far is 182-28 – and this one could see more offense than defense with standout quarterbacks Jared Davis and Bryce Bearss leading the Eagles and Cardinals, respectively.  

Others that caught my eye: Brighton (3-1) at Grand Blanc (4-0), Croswell-Lexington (3-1) at Algonac (4-0), Montrose (3-1) at Lake Fenton (4-0), Midland Dow (4-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (2-2).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Catholic Central (4-0) at Birmingham Brother Rice (3-1)

What gives this an edge over the many other 4-0 vs. 3-1 matchups in the Detroit area this week is a few-fold. The winner certainly has an upper hand in the Detroit Catholic League Central, annually one of the state’s most competitive leagues. But it’s also intriguing because of Brother Rice’s bounce-back from 2-7 a year ago – its first sub-.500 finish since 1985. The Warriors’ lone loss this fall was to Indiana power Mishawaka Penn; DCC handed previously-undefeated Cleveland St. Ignatius a first loss last week and also owns an always-impressive win over Toledo Whitmer. The Shamrocks’ 35-7 win over Brother Rice in 2015 was their first against the rival after three straight losses; Rice surely will be looking to start a new streak.

Others that caught my eye: Romulus (4-0) at Dearborn (3-1), Detroit East English (3-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (4-0), Romeo (3-1) at Utica Eisenhower (4-0), Dearborn Fordson (4-0) at Redford Thurston (3-1).


Stockbridge (3-1) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (4-0)

These two have combined to score 73 and then 103 points in their most recent meetings, respectively, and Stockbridge quarterback Mason Gee-Montgomery is coming off throwing eight touchdown passes to pass 100 for his career last week. Lakewood hasn’t scored fewer than 37 points this fall, and both teams are giving up their share as well. In addition to the obvious entertainment factor, this is a big one because it could decide the eventual Greater Lansing Athletic Conference champion. The Vikings are reigning champs, and with Stockbridge and Olivet are 2-0 in league play with two more league games left after this weekend.  

Others that caught my eye: Laingsburg (4-0) at Fowler (3-1), East Lansing (2-2) at Holt (2-2), Flint Hamady (2-2) at Durand (4-0), New Lothrop (4-0) at Byron (3-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Charlevoix (4-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-1)

The Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division standings could clear up a little bit this week with this result; the winner will join Frankfort (which plays a crossover) as the only undefeated teams left in league play. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Rayders; they finished second in the Leaders in 2014. Glen Lake hasn’t been in contention since the formation of the NMFC that fall – but looks early more like the 2012 and 2013 teams that won Northwest Conference titles. The Lakers’ loss this season was by a mere eight points to powerhouse Traverse City St. Francis, and they beat 3-1 Onekama 42-7 a week ago. Charlevoix has an impressive win though too, by eight over NMFC Legends co-leader Boyne City in Week 2.

Others that caught my eye: Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-2) at Frankfort (4-0), Traverse City Central (4-0) at Gaylord (2-2), Houghton Lake (3-1) at Roscommon (4-0), Lincoln Alcona (3-1) at Whittemore-Prescott (3-1).

Southeast & Border

Adrian Madison (3-1) at Sand Creek (4-0)

Six of eight teams in the Tri-County Conference are .500 or better so far, and the league has a couple of significant matchups this week. Sand Creek gets a chance to prove it will stick in contention with also-undefeated Clinton and Ottawa Lake Whiteford. The Aggies have more wins than they’ve totaled in an entire season since 2011, but Madison – which lost to Clinton by only eight in Week 3 – is halfway to earning its first playoff berth since 2009.

Others that caught my eye: Tecumseh (2-2) at Chelsea (4-0), Springport (4-0) at Homer (2-2), Dundee (2-2) at Ida (4-0), Grand Ledge (3-1) at Jackson (2-2).

Southwest Corridor

Lawton (4-0) at Gobles (4-0)

This rivalry has been on, and then off, and now on again a few times over the last 15 years, but this edition might be the most meaningful in a while – and not just because Lawton won a nail-biter 30-27 a year ago. Both are staring down reigning champion Schoolcraft in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Central, with Lawton getting the Eagles next week and Gobles getting them in Week 7. Both are contenders to take the title away; Gobles has scored at least 50 points three weeks in a row, and Lawton has given up 12 – total – in four games.

Others that caught my eye: Battle Creek Lakeview (3-0) at Portage Central (3-1), Edwardsburg (4-0) at Dowagiac (2-2), Parchment (3-1) at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (4-0), Bark River-Harris (2-2) at Climax-Scotts (4-0) on Saturday.

Upper Peninsula

Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-0) at Newberry (4-0)

The Mid-Eastern Conference has seen the share of top games in the Upper Peninsula so far, and this one could finish the sorting for this season. Newberry, in fact, can clinch a share of the league title, which would its first since 2005 in the Straits Area Conference. The Lakes won the final Great Western Conference title last fall but have played only one Mid-Eastern game so far. They need to win this one to not only take the lead, but keep alive a 13-game regular-season winning streak that this fall included handing Hancock its only loss so far.  

Others that caught my eye: Calumet (3-1) at Hancock (3-1), Norway (4-0) at Ishpeming (2-1), Menominee (4-0) at Kingsford (3-1), Gwinn (3-1) at Negaunee (4-0).

West Michigan

Whitehall (4-0) at Montague (4-0)

This is a rematch of one of the classics from the Muskegon area a year ago; Montague won 29-28 in Week 5, which ended up contributing significantly to the Wildcats winning the West Michigan Conference championship. Comparing results against the same first four opponents from a year ago, Montague has been far more dominant this fall, outscoring those teams by a combined 173-24. Whitehall earned an impressive 50-47 win over much-improved Wyoming Kelloggsville in Week 1 and hasn’t slowed, running for 402 yards against Hart last week.

Others that caught my eye: Zeeland West (3-1) at Byron Center (3-1), Grand Rapids Christian (4-0) at Cedar Springs (3-1), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (3-1) at Muskegon (3-1), Lowell (4-0) at Greenville (3-1).


Battle Creek St. Philip (4-0) at Camden-Frontier (3-0), Saturday

Camden-Frontier made its 8-player debut Week 1 by breaking a 19-game losing streak and has absolutely dominated, outscoring its first three opponents by a combined 194-8 – although two of those wins came against the same team. Regardless, the Redskins will find out Saturday where they might sit when it comes to the state’s elite. St. Philip has had a couple of closer-than-usual wins, two by 10 or fewer points. But the reigning MHSAA runner-up has won 16 of its last 17 games.

Others that caught my eye: Deckerville (4-0) at Rudyard (3-1), Pickford (3-1) at Posen (2-2).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Flint Hamady (blue helmets) downed Byron in Week 2 and takes on Durand this week; Byron takes on New Lothrop, which with Durand is tied for first in the Genesee Area Conference Blue. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

July 10, 2024

CJ Nightingale's family values, small-town upbringing and Christian faith steered the Mendon native into a career coaching college football.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosNightingale, a 2010 Mendon High School graduate, is busily preparing for his first season as Belhaven University's eighth football coach. He was officially named the Blazers' head coach seven months ago, on Jan. 1.

Belhaven, a Division III school located in Jackson, Mississippi, competes in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Nightingale credits his love of coaching to his father Chris Nightingale and grandfather Charles Nightingale.

"It all started with my dad and grandfather. At one time they were both involved in coaching, and their general love for sports wore off on me," CJ Nightingale said.

Once CJ reached high school, his interest in athletics only intensified thanks to several people who made a big impact on him.

"I had the most wonderful experience attending school and participating in Mendon athletics,” Nightingale said. “We didn't always have the better athletes, but we were successful because of all the time and commitment put in by our coaches, teachers, administration along with parental and community support. Success is the result of many people who focus on the same cause."

Nightingale lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Mendon, earning four varsity letters in all three sports. He was named the St. Joseph Valley League's MVP in all three sports his senior year, and Mendon earned league titles in all three during Nightingale's senior year as well.

As a starting quarterback and defensive back his sophomore year, Nightingale led Mendon to the 2007 Division 7 football championship with the Hornets' 20-0 win over Traverse City St. Francis. Nightingale still holds the state record for career interceptions with 27.

Mendon had finished the 2006 season 3-6. A losing season remains rare in Mendon, and Nightingale stated it fueled the Hornets' title run the following season.

"I think losing is more difficult in football than in any other sport because of how much work goes into preparing for a season,” Nightingale recalled. “We were a very young team in 2006 and got punched in the mouth. It wasn't the best feeling, but it was a real learning experience and served as a big driving force that next season.

"All the hard times we endured the previous year served as a byproduct for our success in 2007. That team was unselfish, and not one player on the team cared who got the stats or accolades."

At Mendon, Nightingale played for legendary coach John Schwartz in football, David Swanwick in basketball and Glen Samson in baseball.

Lessons from Schwartz – a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame – and Samson have especially stuck with Nightingale into adult life and his own coaching career.

"Coach Schwartz had a way of getting everyone on the same page not just on the field, but he taught you how to be the best version of yourself off the field in every-day life. Coach Samson knew how to get his players in the right positions on the diamond to make us successful," Nightingale said.

"The environment at Mendon solidified my desire to become a coach and teacher. The best leaders are also the best teachers, and when you are surrounded by people like that it makes a big difference."

Nightingale attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where he lettered in football four years as a defensive back and return specialist. During Nightingale's career, the Thunder posted a combined record of 34-8 and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs when he was a freshman.

After graduating college, Nightingale taught history and spent two years as the varsity football coach at Richmond High School in Indiana. In 2016 he secured his first collegiate coaching job at Greenville University (Ill.) as a defensive backs coach, where he spent one season. He then served as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Indiana Wesleyan University beginning in 2017 before returning to his alma mater Wheaton in 2019 as the Thunder's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. Nightingale coached 24 all-conference players, 10 all-region performers and seven All-Americans over his four seasons at Wheaton, and the Thunder made the Division III playoffs all four years.

The head football coaching position at Belhaven became available in December 2023 when previous coach Blaine McCorkle moved on to Division 1 Northwestern State (La.). Nightingale applied and went through a three-week interview process before being selected as the program’s next head coach.

"I truly feel like God has called my wife Shanel and I and our family here for a reason. We are going to pour into Belhaven as deeply as we can and see what life brings us,” CJ Nightingale said. “As a college football coach, you have the unique chance to pour into your players spiritually, academically, athletically and socially. That's what is really special about this profession."

Belhaven's program has enjoyed a lot of success, especially the past three seasons with a combined 24-7 record, including a 9-2 finish last fall.

"I am very fortunate to be taking over a strong program here at Belhaven. You don't sustain success, but rather you must be able to build on it," Nightingale said. "We are excited about this season after a great spring. This group of coaches and players got a lot done these past six months. We have had a lot of guys here on campus all summer working to get better. There are lot of goals in front of us that haven't been achieved yet. Two of those goals are to go undefeated in conference play and host a playoff game.”

CJ and Shanel have three children, including 5-year old daughter Charlotte, 3-year old son Trey and 14-month old daughter Coco. They are expecting a fourth child in mid-September.

2024 Made In Michigan

June 28: E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Mendon’s CJ Nightingale (2) celebrates during his team’s 2007 championship win over Traverse City St. Francis at Ford Field; at right Nightingale is pictured with his wife Shanel and children Charlotte, Trey and Coco. (Middle) Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. (Family photo courtesy of CJ Nightingale.)