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

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.)