Drive for Detroit: Week 6 Preview

September 27, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

In place of a catchy way to introduce what’s at stake, here’s what’s at stake during Week 6 of this high school football season:

Of 45 matchups mentioned in this “Drive for Detroit” preview, 15 pit teams tied for first place in their respective leagues. Another five games match up teams that are undefeated in their leagues, although not tied for first technically because one of the teams has played one more league game.

Another bunch of games below have first and second-place teams facing off. And we didn’t even have room with the format for a few more title-caliber tilts – like Detroit Western (4-1) at Detroit Osborn (4-1) and Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Allen Park (4-1) – or the 5-0 vs. 5-0 showcase between Farmington and Madison Heights Madison.

All games below are tonight; a handful of Michigan teams play Saturday this week. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. will broadcast 11 games this weekend, including Edwardsburg/Plainwell mentioned below. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

Mount Pleasant (5-0) at Midland (3-2)

These two and Midland Dow have started Saginaw Valley League Red play 3-0, and the Oilers are enjoying their first 5-0 start since the Division 3 runner-up season of 2011. Only one of their opponents so far has a winning record, but giving up 4.4 points per game is impressive whatever the competition. Midland’s defense has been similarly confining, holding its opponents to 13.6 points on average, and the Chemics have beaten Mount Pleasant in three straight. The winner will earn an edge in the league, of course, but the rest will be decided when Dow faces Mount Pleasant in Week 8 and Midland in Week 9.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Goodrich (4-1) at Flint Hamady (5-0), Grand Blanc (4-1) at Lapeer (5-0), Bad Axe (3-2) at Cass City (4-1), Traverse City West (3-2) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-2).

Greater Detroit

Dearborn Fordson (5-0) at Belleville (5-0)

The co-leaders in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East have played three like opponents and are nearly statistically even, Belleville outscoring its four league foes 179-65 and Fordson its four 178-67. But the Tractors must show they’re even in this matchup after falling 35-7 a year ago when both also entered that game undefeated. Both teams’ superiority stretches outside the league again this season; both rank among the top 10 in playoff point average statewide.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Harper Woods (4-1) at River Rouge (4-1), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (4-1) at Grosse Ile (5-0), Detroit Loyola (3-2) at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (4-1), Detroit Cass Tech (5-0) at Detroit Cody (4-1).


Saginaw Swan Valley (5-0) at Alma (5-0)

Only one opponent has slowed down Swan Valley this fall – Cedar Springs in a 21-12 defeat in Week 1. Alma was one of the few that came close a year ago, falling by only 17 in the Tri-Valley Conference Central finale. Neither has been tested much in the league this time around, and the winner tonight will clinch a share of the title.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY St. Johns (3-2) at Haslett (4-1), Fowler (4-1) at Dansville (4-1), East Lansing (4-1) at Holt (2-3), Grand Rapids Christian (4-1) at Middleville Thornapple Kellogg (5-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Leroy Pine River (4-1) at Lake City (5-0)

The Bucks have bounced way back from last season’s 1-8 finish and control their Highland Conference title destiny despite last week’s five-point loss to McBain – which fell by two to reigning champion Lake City in Week 3. Before last season, Leroy Pine River had defeated Lake City in three straight meetings. But the Trojans are 17-1 over the last two seasons and have given up 25 points this fall, half the Bucks’ equally impressive 51 points against and while scoring 13 more per game.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Petoskey (3-2) at Traverse City Central (4-1), Maple City Glen Lake (2-3) at Elk Rapids (4-1), Benzie Central (3-2) at Kingsley (4-1), Tawas (3-1) at Oscoda (4-1).

Southeast & Border

Ypsilanti Lincoln (4-1) at Jackson (5-0)

Jackson has arrived as a contender in the Southeastern Conference White with a number of gritty wins – four of five have come by 10 points or fewer, including last week’s over reigning champion Chelsea. The Vikings are new to the league this fall and now get Lincoln, last season’s runner-up and already an avenger of both of its 2017 regular-season defeats. Lincoln last won the league in 2014, and claiming another title next month would of course be a big deal. But Jackson is facing a truly historic possibility – it hasn’t won a league title since 1942.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Grass Lake (5-0) at Michigan Center (5-0), Blissfield (4-1) at Hillsdale (5-0), Saline (4-1) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (3-2), Pittsford (5-0) at Athens (3-1).

Southwest Corridor

Battle Creek Central (4-1) at Kalamazoo Central (3-2)

The 115th meeting between these rivals means more than it has in quite a while. They are tied atop the five-team Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East, both with more wins overall this season than in 2017 and both facing the possibility of making the playoffs for the first time in at least a decade. The Maroon Giants have won the last two of this series and own a 16-point win this season over SMAC West leader Portage Central – the only team to defeat the Bearcats this fall.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Constantine (5-0) at Schoolcraft (4-1), Edwardsburg (5-0) at Plainwell (4-1), Centreville (5-0) at Mendon (3-2), Portage Central (4-1) at St. Joseph (3-2).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming (5-0) at Gwinn (4-1)

These two and Iron River West Iron County are all 3-0 in the eight-team Western Peninsula Athletic Conference small-school division. Ishpeming and Gwinn came to the league from the Mid-Peninsula Conference this fall, after the Hematites dominated that league for most of its final decade – but Gwinn won their last meeting on the field, by 32 points in 2016. The Modeltowners have surpassed their 2017 win total, but must bounce back after being stunned by Houghton last week. Ishpeming too has turned things around after two straight three-win seasons, passing a couple of close tests the last two weeks.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Calumet (5-0) at Iron Mountain (4-1), Marquette (2-3) at Kingsford (2-3), Hancock (2-3) at Ishpeming Westwood (3-2), Gladstone (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2).

West Michigan

Zeeland West (4-1) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-0)

Unity Christian has spent its share of time chasing frequent champion Zeeland West in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green race over the last decade or so, and the Crusaders have earned another chance to push ahead of the Dux and neighboring Chix – all three teams are 2-0 in league play with Unity the lone undefeated team overall. The last three meetings between West and Unity have been decided by seven points or fewer, and signs point to another tightly-contested matchup. West’s lone loss came to O-K Gold co-leader Grand Rapids Christian.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Jenison (4-1) at Muskegon (5-0), Grand Rapids South Christian (3-2) at East Grand Rapids (3-2), Spring Lake (5-0) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (2-3), Grand Rapids Catholic Central (4-1) at Allendale (3-2).


Colon (5-0) at Camden-Frontier (4-1)

First-year 8-player program Colon is one win from tying its best record since 2009 and after going 2-7 last season in 11-player. Camden-Frontier has established itself as an 8-player power the last two seasons and will provide a big test for the Magi – although the latter beat Bellevue in Week 2 and Bellevue handed the Redskins their lone loss, in Week 4. A Colon win would clinch a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association A title – while a Camden-Frontier win could create a three-way tie at the top with just one more league game to play.  

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Powers North Central (4-1) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (3-2), Posen (5-0) at Hillman (4-1), Mayville (4-1) at Peck (4-1), Stephenson (4-1) at Pickford (5-0).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews 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: Saginaw Swan Valley's De'Ondric Sanders runs for some of his 102 yards Week 1 against Cedar Springs. 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.)