Drive for Detroit: Week 5 in Review

September 30, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

In case you missed it: The rain showed up again this weekend, turning the Week 5 football schedule into a two-day trudge for about 200 teams across Michigan.

But that’s not what we’ll remember most.

The midpoint of this regular season was filled with great rivalry matchups, many decided by only a few points and one that finished with a 3-2 score. We also saw marathons that had nothing to do with thunderstorms – like Livonia Franklin navigating three overtimes to get past rival Churchill and West Bloomfield needing a fourth to edge Lake Orion.

All of it served to set up what’s next to come – a raft of teams clinching league championships over the final month, and a number of teams this week joining our first playoff qualifiers of 2019: Berrien Springs Farmington, Flint Hamady and Jackson Lumen Christi.

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

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Frankenmuth 23, Saginaw Swan Valley 20 For the second straight week the Eagles (5-0) sent another Tri-Valley Conference East co-leader into second place, this time Swan Valley with a win that took two days to complete. The Eagles now sit alone atop the East standings with Freeland, Swan Valley (3-2) and this week’s opponent Essexville Garber all tied for second with one league loss. Click for more from the Saginaw News and see below for highlights from WJRT.

Watch list Harbor Beach 29, Ubly 14 The Pirates (5-0) pulled within a win of claiming a piece of the Greater Thumb Conference East title after sharing it last season and winning it outright in 2017. Harbor Beach is putting up numbers like its MHSAA title contending days of last season and earlier this decade, outscoring opponents by a combined 226-31. Ubly (4-1) hadn’t given up more than 19 in a game until this one and was averaging 40.5 ppg.

Remember this one Goodrich 32, Ortonville Brandon 26 The Martians (4-1) set up a title-deciding matchup with Lake Fenton this week in the Flint Metro League “Lower” division by handing Ortonville Brandon (4-1) its first defeat. Brandon shared last year’s Metro title when the league was still unified for football before adding schools (including Goodrich) and splitting into divisions for this fall.

More shoutouts Fenton 35, Flint Kearsley 13 The Tigers have emerged as the lone first-place team in the Metro League “Upper” after sending Kearsley (4-1) into a tie for second with Linden and Flushing, Fenton’s opponents over the next two weeks, respectively. Saginaw Heritage 50, Midland Dow 15 The Hawks (3-2) just missed last season making the playoffs for the first time since 2007, but breaking a decade-long losing streak to Dow (2-3) might be the difference-maker this time.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER West Bloomfield 59, Lake Orion 52 (4OT) The Oakland Activities Association Red has three teams at 4-1 midway through the season, and these are two of them after West Bloomfield prevailed in a matchup that tied for ninth highest-scoring overtime game in MHSAA history. The Lakers moved into first place alone in the league standings after coming back from a 10-point halftime deficit and with quarterback CJ Harris throwing for more than 200 yards and running for more than 190. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Watch list Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 27, Macomb Dakota 21 The Big Reds (5-0) won their fifth straight over rival Dakota (3-2) and hold the top spot alone in the Macomb Area Conference Red as they look to continue their 19-game winning streak.

Remember this one Detroit Catholic Central 7, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 3 The Detroit Catholic League Central season is only a week old for DCC and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, but those teams now have a one-game lead with the Shamrocks (3-2) handing Rice (4-1) its first defeat and the Eaglets edging Warren De La Salle Collegiate 16-14.

More shoutouts Brownstown Woodhaven 21, Allen Park 20 The Warriors (5-0) shared the Downriver League title last season despite losing to eventual third-place Allen Park (3-2), and now sit atop the league alone by avenging that defeat. Grosse Pointe South 35, Port Huron 0 Since falling Week 1 to Birmingham Groves, South (4-1) hasn’t lost – or given up a point – and handed Port Huron (4-1) its first defeat this week.


HEADLINER Portland 21, Lansing Catholic 20 The Raiders (5-0) extended their Capital Area Activities Conference White winning streak to 24 in part by blocking an extra point during the final minutes that would’ve tied this game with the rival Cougars (4-1). The win also ran Portland’s streak in the series to five – something to keep in mind later as these two have met again in the playoffs the last two seasons. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.   

Watch list East Lansing 21, DeWitt 2 The Trojans (4-1) followed up their impressive Week 4 win over Portage Northern with another that could eventually earn them a league title. DeWitt (3-2) was the reigning CAAC Blue champ and downed East Lansing 37-0 last season. But the Trojans now sit alone atop the standings after just two league games, having ended a DeWitt league winning streak that stretched back to 2008 and across the Panthers’ time in the CAAC Blue, Red and Gold.

Remember this one Clare 3, Sanford Meridian 2 It’s a good guess those involved will not soon forget being part of such a low-scoring game that also meant a ton in the Jack Pine Conference standings. Clare (5-0) now sits tied with Beaverton for first place after stopping two drives by Meridian (4-1) deep into Pioneers territory during the final 10 minutes.

More shoutouts Mason 46, St. Johns 7 The Bulldogs are 5-0 for the first time since 2009 and set up a CAAC Red decider this week against Fowlerville by shutting down the Redwings (3-2). Breckenridge 38, Merrill 0 Since falling to Beaverton in Week 1, Breckenridge also is unbeaten and has outscored its last four opponents by a combined 178-8. Merrill (3-2) was averaging 32 ppg entering the weekend.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Charlevoix 37, Frankfort 15 With four wins this season, Charlevoix (4-1) has equaled their totals from the last two years combined. This week’s victory over Frankfort (2-3) was the first since 2014 and kept the Red Rayders tied for first in the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders title race with Week 8 opponent Maple City Glen Lake. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle

Watch list Johannesburg-Lewiston 26, Tawas 14 The Cardinals (5-0) earned arguably the best win of a fast start and got some final prep for back-to-back games with Charlevoix and NMFL Legacy leader Harbor Springs. Tawas (3-2), playing eight games, must win two of the next three to guarantee a return to the playoffs.

Remember this one Houghton Lake 34, Lake City 14 The Bobcats (3-2) fell to Highland Conference leader Beat City in their Week 2 league opener, but kept pace in second place by getting past the Trojans (2-3).

More shoutouts Cadillac 26, Lake Odessa Lakewood 6 Like Charlevoix discussed above, Cadillac (3-2) has won as many games this fall as the last two combined and has a chance to make a run at a playoff spot. Mancelona 46, Elk Rapids 6 The Ironmen (3-2) are in position to make a run at their best finish and first playoff appearance since 2014.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Jackson Lumen Christi 21, Marshall 14 The Titans (5-0) took a big step toward wrapping up the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title, bumping the Redhawks (4-1) out of a tie for first and with their final three league opponents a combined 4-11. Marshall kept pace for most of the game, with Lumen scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter before the teams held each other scoreless during the fourth.

Watch list Chelsea 13, Jackson 0 The Bulldogs (5-0) drew a step closer to clinching the Southeastern Conference White title by shutting out the reigning champion Vikings (3-2), which won the 2018 meeting 29-20. Chelsea’s final three league opponents are a combined 2-13.

Remember this one Hillsdale 10, Hudson 6 The Hornets (5-0) remain tied with Blissfield atop the Lenawee County Athletic Association standings after downing what has to be one of the state’s top 2-3 teams in Hudson, which has lost those games by a combined 32 points to teams a combined 13-2 this fall.

More shoutouts Pinckney 40, Ypsilanti Lincoln 14 The Pirates avenged last season’s loss to Lincoln to move to 4-1, eclipsing last year’s three victories while sending the Railsplitters to 2-3. Adrian Lenawee Christian 49, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 8 Lenawee Christian (4-1) handed NorthPointe (4-1) its first defeat, and aside from a Week 2 loss to Sand Creek has outscored its other four opponents by a combined 201-8.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Battle Creek Lakeview 35, Kalamazoo Central 7 The Spartans (5-0) clinched a share of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East title, avenging last season’s 21-13 loss to last season’s league champion Kalamazoo Central (2-3). Lakeview can finish an outright title run Week 8 against Kalamazoo Loy Norrix. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Watch list Portage Central 14, Stevensville Lakeshore 13 Both are chasing co-leaders Portage Northern and St. Joseph in the SMAC West and may not catch them. But both also are trying to extend playoff streaks – Central has made the postseason seven straight, and Lakeshore must win out to guarantee running their streak to 22 seasons. The Lancers are tied with Lumen Christi for the third-longest active playoff streak and sixth longest all-time.  

Remember this one Schoolcraft 67, Delton Kellogg 14 The Eagles (5-0) are averaging nearly 60 points per game and turned up the offense to start the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley season against a playoff regular the last few seasons in Delton (3-2).

More shoutouts Benton Harbor 28, Battle Creek Central 21 After three straight playoff seasons and a run of state and national recognition, Benton Harbor fell to 3-5 last fall – but has bounced back and improved to 3-2 with this win. Cassopolis 33, Decatur 11 The Rangers (5-0) gave up their first points of the season, but against a Decatur team that despite falling to 2-3 has a solid chance to earn its seventh playoff berth in nine seasons.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER L’Anse 14, Lake Linden-Hubbell 0 The Purple Hornets (4-1) will have to win at least one more game to have a shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and their final four opponents are a combined 16-4. But L’Anse has set itself up for success just about as well as possible, this shutout its first in two seasons and against a Lakes team that at 3-2 is in a similar boat as it works to get back to the postseason. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Watch list Menominee 35, Boyne City 0 Last season was the rarest of rare for the Maroons, who finished below .500 and didn’t make the playoffs both for the first time since 1995. But Menominee has rebounded substantially, its only loss to a Kaukauna, Wis., team that is 5-1. Boyne City fell to 2-3, but is tied for the lead in the NMFL Legends division.

Remember this one Negaunee 40, Ishpeming 20 After a pair of losses to still-unbeaten Iron Mountain and Calumet to start the fall, Negaunee (3-2) has won three straight with its largest margin yet coming against the Hematites (3-2).  

More shoutouts Sault Ste. Marie 24, Ogemaw Heights 12 The Blue Devils (4-1) are a win shy of equaling last year’s 5-4 finish and a candidate to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015, while Ogemaw Heights remains in the hunt for its first postseason berth since 2013. Escanaba 31, Kingsford 8 The Eskymos (4-1) bounced back from a painful loss to Marquette with their second-best defensive performance of the season in locking down the Flivvers (2-3).

West Michigan

HEADLINER Muskegon Oakridge 15, Montague 13 (OT) One of the best rivalries in Michigan just keeps getting better. This time, Oakridge (5-0) emerged victorious by stopping Montague’s 2-point conversion try to tie in overtime. This close finish follows Montague’s one-point win a year ago and is the fourth meeting over the last five between these two to be decided by seven points or fewer. Oakridge and Ravenna now sit atop the West Michigan Conference standings, with Montague (4-1) one game back. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Byron Center 23, Zeeland West 22 We’ve talked up Byron Center (5-0) a bit in the early going this fall, but this win over Ottawa-Kent Conference Green powerhouse Zeeland West (4-1) is another major sign this could be a special season. This was the Bulldogs’ first win over the Dux since 2016, when Byron Center finished 10-2.

Remember this one Grandville 22, East Kentwood 21 The Bulldogs’ star continues to rise, and winning close against reigning O-K Red champion East Kentwood (3-2) could end up one the most important wins of the season as Grandville (5-0) looks to contend.

More shoutouts Zeeland East 42, Holland Christian 39 (OT) The two-time reigning champion Chix (4-1) just got past Holland Christian (2-3) to also remain undefeated in O-K Green play. Sparta 48, Grand Rapids West Catholic 7 The Spartans (4-1) took a serious step toward making the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and also can eye winning more than five games for the first time since 2011. Additionally, they hampered West Catholic’s hopes of extending its 16-year playoff streak. The Falcons (1-4) will have to win out to have the opportunity.


HEADLINER Colon 42, Climax-Scotts 0 This was our featured 8-player matchup in Friday’s preview, and as noted then Climax-Scotts (4-1) had beaten Colon in 11-straight 11-player games before Colon switched to 8-player beginning with the 2018 season. The Magi (5-0) showed their superiority in this format, leaping a major hurdle as they run for a second straight Southern Central Athletic Association A championship. Click for more from

Watch list Mio 32, Hillman 14 The Thunderbolts have gone from 17 straight losses in 11-player to a 4-1 start in 8-player and handing Hillman (4-1) its first defeat of this fall. The Tigers had beaten Mio in four straight before they took a year off when Hillman moved to 8-player a year ago.

Remember this one Cedarville 48, Brimley 6 The Trojans (3-2) kept themselves in the mix in what looks like a strong Great Lakes Conference East, bouncing back from a loss to Rapid River by handing Brimley (4-1) its lone defeat.

More shoutouts Bellevue 30, Camden-Frontier 12 The Broncos gave themselves a chance in the SCAA A with a second-straight big win heading into this week’s matchup with Colon. Camden-Frontier (3-2) gets Colon in two weeks. Tekonsha 56, Waldron 54 (OT) Tekonsha (3-2) held on to stay on top in the SCAA B as it looks to repeat, with Week 7 opponent Burr Oak the only other team unbeaten in league play.

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PHOTO: Muskegon Oakridge's Leroy Quinn (20) breaks through the line during his team's 15-13 win over rival Montague. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)