Drive for Detroit: Week 5 in Review

September 26, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend, we’ll be able to start counting how many teams have punched tickets for this season’s MHSAA playoffs. But here are a few numbers of note before we take that next significant step.

The number of undefeated high school varsity teams in Michigan was cut from 100 to 81 during Week 5. A total of 73 pulled to within a win of qualifying for the postseason. And in more of an oddity, three pairs of teams combined to score 119 points: St. Clair and St. Clair Shores South Lake (71-48 for St. Clair), Flint Kearsley and Swartz Creek (67-52 for Kearsley) and Kalamazoo United and Constantine (62-57 for Kalamazoo). On the other side of the spectrum, rivals Grosse Pointe North and South combined for an 8-4 North victory.

Numbers are great, but what mattered more, of course, were a number of results from all over the state. Check out the most significant from every corner below.

Bay & Thumb

Frankenmuth 24, Millington 7

The Eagles (5-0) made it four wins over their last five meetings with their Tri-Valley Conference East rival, this time holding an offense averaging 46 points per game to a single score while getting three touchdown runs from quarterback Jared Davis. Frankenmuth has given up only 27 points over five games this season – although Millington (4-1) did hold the Eagles to a season low on offense as well. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Algonac 19, Croswell-Lexington 14 – The reigning co-champion Muskrats (5-0) more or less eliminated another Blue Water Area Conference contender in Croswell-Lexington (3-2) to keep pace with the other co-champion, Richmond, atop the standings.

Bay City Central 28, Midland 14 – The Wolves (3-2) equaled their win total from last season with their first over Midland (3-2) since a 2006 District Final.

Lake Fenton 35, Montrose 0 – The Blue Devils (5-0) likely brought the Genesee Area Conference Red race down to two teams, with Corunna, by handing the Rams (3-2) their first league loss. 

Flint Hamady 44, Durand 21 – Hamady (3-2) knocked Durand (4-1) out of a tie for first in the GAC Blue while pulling only a win behind solo leader New Lothrop after losing to the Hornets in Week 4. 

Greater Detroit

Detroit Catholic Central 28, Birmingham Brother Rice 21 (2 OT)

Brother Rice (3-2) may be back from its worst finish in 30 years, but Detroit Catholic Central earned the better track to finishing on top in the Detroit Catholic League Central. The Shamrocks (5-0) watched a 14-0 lead dissolve, but held on for a final stop after scoring the first points of the second overtime. DCC is only 1-0 in the Central, with Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at 2-0 as the other undefeated team in league play. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:  

Trenton 31, Brownstown Woodhaven 28 – The Trojans (5-0) scored the final 17 points against previously-undefeated Woodhaven (4-1) to come back and stay atop the Downriver League standings with co-leader Allen Park up next.

Dearborn 22, Romulus 8 – The Pioneers (4-1) took over first place alone in the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red with two league games to play and Romulus (4-1) needing help now from teams sitting tied for fourth and sixth.

Detroit Cody 18, Detroit Mumford 12 (3 OT) – After an eight-point loss to Grosse Pointe South on opening night, Cody (4-1) has put together its best start since 2010, doubled last season’s win total and now beaten a Mumford team (3-2) coming off three straight victories.

Utica Eisenhower 16, Romeo 14 – The Eagles (5-0) kept pace with Warren Mott atop the Macomb Area Conference Red by handing reigning MHSAA Division 1 champion Romeo (3-2) its first league loss on a last-second field goal by Anthony Tocco. 


Brighton 20, Grand Blanc 19

The Bulldogs (4-1) are alone at 2-0 in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West after getting a late turnover and then game-winning field goal by Rudy Ramirez against the rival Bobcats (4-1). Brighton has mastered the close win early this season, with three victories by six points or fewer. Click for more from the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

Also noted:

Corunna 48, Flint Beecher 20 – As noted above, the GAC Red race seems down to Corunna (5-0) and Lake Fenton, with the Cavaliers off to their best start since 2002 and Beecher (2-3) now having to win out to guarantee a 10th straight playoff berth.

Laingsburg 25, Fowler 14 – The Wolfpack (5-0) beat Fowler (3-2) for the first time since 2009 to remain tied for first in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference with co-leader Pewamo-Westphalia up next.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 47, Vestaburg 20 – The Irish (2-3) probably aren’t in the mix in the Mid-State Activities Conference after suffering two league losses during an 0-3 start, but they might have taken Vestaburg (4-1) out as well while keeping playoff hopes alive.

Grand Ledge 30, Jackson 19 – The Comets (4-1) scored the final two touchdowns but were a quarter from seeing their lead in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue disappear as Jackson (2-3) scored to take the lead at the start of the fourth. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City Central 21, Gaylord 20

For the second time in three weeks, Traverse City Central just held on to its perfect record against a Big North Conference rival. After beating West 10-8 two weeks ago, the Trojans returned to league play Friday and drove for the go-ahead score over the final 1:11 to remain in first place in the Big North Conference. Gaylord (2-3) has fallen twice to Central by a combined eight points over their last two meetings. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Gaylord St. Mary 45, Central Lake 12 – The Snowbirds (5-0) have won all of their games by at least 18 points in amassing more victories this season than in any since 2009.

Boyne City 35, Grayling 14 – Hopefully no one counted out the Ramblers (3-2) after an 0-2 start; they are one of three teams still undefeated in Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends league play after handing Grayling (3-2) its first Legends defeat.

Maple City Glen Lake 49, Charlevoix 7 – The Lakers (4-1) left no doubt which team should be ahead in the NMFC Leaders title hunt, handing Charlevoix (4-1) its first loss with the other league favorite, Frankfort, up next.

Roscommon 36, Houghton Lake 34 – Every Roscommon win lately seems notable as the Bucks (5-0) go after a first league title since 2006, this one because Houghton Lake (3-2) is off to its best start since 2011.

Southeast & Border

Morenci 20, Clinton 17 (OT)

Morenci (3-2) has had a lot to celebrate while watching the football program ascend over the last three seasons. But Friday’s conquest had to be among the top handful of highlights. Clinton (4-1) hadn’t lost a regular-season game since 2011 – a run of 40 straight – and aside from an eight-point win over Adrian Madison two weeks ago hadn’t been slowed much this fall despite some pretty significant graduations this spring. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Homer 28, Springport 26 – The reigning Big 8 Conference champion Trojans (3-2) are hanging on tied for second in the league after knocking Springport (4-1) out of a tie for first.

Sand Creek 26, Adrian Madison 18 – The Aggies (5-0) moved into a Tri-County Conference first-place tie with only Ottawa Lake Whiteford thanks to an impressive win over Madison (3-2) and the Clinton upset discussed above.

Adrian 18, Ypsilanti Community 6 – The Maples (3-2) are working back toward their former status as contenders, this week avenging last season’s 45-point loss to Ypsilanti Community (2-2) to earn a third win – their most in a season since 2012.

Milan 42, New Boston Huron 7 – Huron (3-2) looked like it might give Milan (5-0) some trouble in the Huron League, but the Big Reds instead put together their most impressive win as they  head into this week’s likely title-decider against Grosse Ile. 

Southwest Corridor

Lawton 31, Gobles 21

Lawton won its third straight over the Tigers to set up this week’s matchup with Schoolcraft which could decide the Southwestern Athletic Conference Central championship. Lawton (5-0) ran for more than 400 yards to grind out the win after trailing Gobles (4-1) late in the second quarter. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Comstock 20, Niles Brandywine 14 – First, Comstock (2-3) breaks a 40-game losing streak last week; this week, the Colts won their second game in a row for the first time since 2010 and against a Brandywine team (1-4) that went 5-4 a year ago.

Kalamazoo United 62, Constantine 57 – Aside from the fact these teams combined to score 119 points, this is the first time either school in the United co-op – Hackett or Christian – had beaten Constantine (3-2) since 2008; Kalamazoo also is 3-2.

Climax-Scotts 20, Bark River-Harris 8 – The Panthers (5-0) got their closest competition this season from the unfamiliar Broncos (2-3) but still managed to continue a defensive effort that’s given up 31 points over five games.

Portage Central 10, Battle Creek Lakeview 7 – The Mustangs (4-1) needed and got a nice bounce-back from last week’s loss to Traverse City Central by handing Lakeview (3-1) its first loss.

Upper Peninsula

Norway 14, Ishpeming 0

Norway is enjoying one the best turnaround seasons in all of Michigan, and beating Ishpeming for the first time since 2009 is the topper so far. The Hematites had defeated the Knights by a combined 86-0 over the last two seasons, but Norway (5-0) now has more wins than in any season since 2010 – and will play Negaunee this week in what could be the deciding game in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference race. Ishpeming (2-2) has two losses in a season for the first time since 2011, but with an eight-game schedule needs only five wins to qualify automatically for the playoffs. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

Gladstone 46, Marquette 45 – The Braves (2-3) squeaked out their first win over Marquette since 2009 and after falling to the Redmen (1-4) by 30 a year ago.

Calumet 52, Hancock 17 – The Copper Kings’ big win over third-place Hancock (3-2) puts Calumet (4-1) firmly atop the West-Peninsula Athletic Conference standings.

Negaunee 19, Gwinn 12 – Add Gwinn (3-2) to an impressive list of challengers Negaunee (5-0) has taken down this season; next up are undefeated Norway and rival Ishpeming.

Lake Linden-Hubbell 44, Newberry 29 – The Lakes (5-0) still have three league games to play and Newberry (4-1) only one, but Lake Linden-Hubbell is in a semi-comfortable position in the Mid-Eastern Conference thanks to this key win. 

West Michigan

Montague 41, Whitehall 20

This one wasn’t as close as Montague’s one-point win over Whitehall (4-1) a year ago, but could turn out just as significant for the Wildcats (5-0) as they look to repeat as West Michigan Conference champions. Montague’s next two games are against teams that are a combined 2-8 before they face rival Muskegon Oakridge in the final league game and a rematch of the title-decider in 2015. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Hamilton 42, Holland 26 – The Hawkeyes’ resurgence continues; Hamilton is 5-0 after going 4-23 over the last three seasons combined.

Byron Center 24, Zeeland West 14 – Another nice run by the Bulldogs (4-1) just got a bonus as they handed reigning Division 4 champion Zeeland West (3-2) its second straight loss.

Grand Rapids Christian 41, Cedar Springs 16 – The Eagles (5-0) got a solid win over Cedar Springs (3-2) during a one-week break in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold schedule and heading into this week’s tilt with co-leader East Grand Rapids.

Wyoming Kelloggsville 36, Grandville Calvin Christian 28 – The Rockets (4-1) broke a five-game losing streak to Calvin Christian (2-3) to remain tied for first in the O-K Silver after winning three games last season.  


Camden-Frontier 22, Battle Creek St. Philip 0

Camden-Frontier (4-0) is enjoying a successful move to 8-player, breaking a 19-game losing streak on opening night. But this had to be a surprise; St. Philip is the reigning MHSAA runner-up and hadn’t lost a regular-season game since Week 9 of 2014 – or been shut out since making the move to 8-player in 2012. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.

Also noted:

New Haven Merritt 68, Burton Madison 48 – Merritt (5-0) has enjoyed a nice run over the last three seasons, but this easily has been the Mustangs’ most dominating start – and also-undefeated Owendale-Gagetown is up next.  

Morrice 26, Mayville 20 (OT) – The Orioles (3-2) hung on for what likely will be a key win as they build their playoff case; Mayville was 5-4 in 11-player only a season ago.  

PHOTO: Morrice earned a key 8-player win in overtime over Mayville last week. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)

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.)