Drive for Detroit: Week 6 in Review

October 6, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Less than a month remains in the MHSAA football regular season, and 21 percent of the 11-player playoff field is filled after 53 teams earned qualifying wins during Week 6.

A number of others must turn their attention solely to the postseason after the whittling over the weekend of many league races to only a few remaining favorites. 

See below for some of the most significant stories we watched unfold during Week 6: 

Greater Detroit

Detroit Cass Tech 21, Detroit East English 16

Usually it’s the Cass Tech offense that gets the headlines. But in its toughest Detroit Public School League game of this season to date, the team’s defenders were the eventual heroes after the Technicians (6-0) went up two touchdowns early. East English (4-2) held Cass Tech to a season-low in points and scored the most the Technicians had given up since Oak Park put up 26 on opening night, but the Technicians held strong late to remain tied for first. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

Also noted:

Walled Lake Central 38, Waterford Mott 20 – After two seasons of sub-.500 records, Walled Lake Central claimed a share of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association North title for the first time since 2010 while dropping second-place Mott to 4-2.

Birmingham Brother Rice 28, Orchard Lake St. Mary's 20 – The Warriors (6-0) claimed a share of their third straight Detroit Catholic League Central title in handing St. Mary’s (5-1) its lone loss.

Canton 40, Livonia Churchill 35 – Canton (5-1) claimed a share of its second straight KLAA South championship by dealing 2012 champ Churchill (5-1) its first loss.

Clinton 28, Morenci 26 – Clinton (6-0) stopped a 2-point conversion attempt during the final minute to extend its 24-game regular-season winning streak and deal Morenci (5-1) its first loss after its best start since 1997. 

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming 20, Beal City 0

These Ford Field regulars have played in different divisions in recent trips, but met in Gaylord for one of the most intriguing games of 2014. The good news for Beal City is the Aggies held Ishpeming (6-0) to its fewest points since 2012. But the Hematites also notched their second straight shutout, holding Beal City (5-1) scoreless for the first time since 2010. Ishpeming’s winning streak is up to 27 straight. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Also noted:

Iron River West Iron County 40, Calumet 26 – West Iron (6-0) pulled within a win of a second-straight West Peninsula Athletic Conference title by escaping improved Calumet (3-3), which is tied for second place.

Crystal Falls Forest Park 36, Felch North Dickinson 14 – This rivalry game was a little less fierce than usual, as the Trojans (4-1) made it three straight over the Nordics (3-3).

Marquette 13, Kingsford 8 – The Redmen (5-1) kept pace in the Great Northern U.P. Conference to set up a Week 9 championship game with undefeated Menominee.

Sault Ste. Marie 28, Gladstone 22 – The Blue Devils (3-3) have stormed back from an 0-3 start, while Gladstone (3-3) has gone the opposite after starting 3-0. 


DeWitt 16, St. Johns 10

The Panthers’ run of 32 straight league wins (dating to 2008) was on the line midway through the fourth quarter as DeWitt trailed by a point. But back-up quarterback Chase McPhee – in for injured starter and Division I college prospect Jacob Johnson – led the Panthers (6-0) on a go-ahead touchdown drive that helped them clinch a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title while handing the rival Redwings (5-1) their lone loss. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Olivet 69, Stockbridge 48 – The Eagles (5-1) are at least partial owners of the inaugural Greater Lansing Activities Conference championship, with second-place Stockbridge (4-2) now needing help from Maple Valley to gather a share.

Jackson Lumen Christi 35, Coldwater 24 – Lumen Christi (6-0) pulled within a win of claiming the inaugural Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title while dropping Coldwater (5-1) into a tie for second place.

Clare 43, Gladwin 36 (OT) – Clare (4-2) hasn’t had too many scares in winning seven straight Jack Pine Conference championships, but survived one from the Flying G’s (4-2) to hold on to a tie for first.

Stanton Central Montcalm 28, Remus Chippewa Hills 27 – The Hornets (4-2) broke open the Central State Activities Association Gold race by handing formerly first-place Chippewa Hills (5-1) its first loss. 

Southwest and Border

Three Rivers 25, Vicksburg 12

The Wildcats’ 0-2 start is becoming a distant memory as they work deeper into the Wolverine B Conference East schedule. Three Rivers (4-2) has won four straight and set itself up to play Plainwell this week to possibly decide the eventual league champion. Vicksburg (4-2), meanwhile, was one of the hottest teams in the state to start the season and beat Three Rivers in 2013, but has now lost two straight. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Berrien Springs 26, Paw Paw 8 – The Shamrocks (4-2) suddenly are in the Wolverine B West conversation, having now won more games this fall than in each of the last two and with this impressive victory over Paw Paw (3-3).

Portage Central 35, Niles 13 – Reigning champion Portage Central (4-1) remains in striking distance in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West if first-place Stevensville Lakeshore falters, while Niles (4-2) remains in position to make the playoffs with a couple solid wins down the stretch.

Stevensville Lakeshore 21, Portage Northern 13 – This was key for the Lancers (5-1), who fell to Northern (4-2) by two points last season.

Union City 18, Jonesville 16 – The Chargers (6-0) have bounced back nicely from last season’s 3-6 finish and are tied for first in the Big 8 Conference. 

Lower Up North

Cadillac 21, Gaylord 20

The Big North Conference race opened up a bit last week (see next result below), but nearly got a lot more interesting with Gaylord (4-2) continuing to push the traditional favorites. Reigning champion and first-place Cadillac hadn’t had alcall this close (except, perhaps, needing a goalline stand in 2013 against Traverse City Central) over its two-season run atop the standings. Click for more from the Cadillac News

Also noted:

Petoskey 16, Traverse City Central 13 – The Northmen (5-1) now get Gaylord, but look best to benefit in the Big North if Cadillac falters; Central (4-2) also is tied for second and gets Cadillac in Week 9.

Boyne City 50, Maple City Glen Lake 0 – Boyne City (6-0) looks good to not only win the inaugural Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title, but also finish the regular season perfect for the first time since 2001.

Oscoda 21, Lincoln Alcona 16 – The Owls (3-3) are in position for their best finish since at least 2000 after delivering Alcona (3-3) its third straight loss.

Whittemore-Prescott 26, Tawas 16 – Although not a league game, this was a good measuring stick locally for the Cardinals (6-0), who continued their surge against solid Tawas (4-2). 

West Michigan

Holland West Ottawa 28, East Kentwood 21

While solid, these two haven’t been much in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title discussion in a while – but West Ottawa (5-1) has earned the opportunity to match favorite Rockford for the championship in Week 9 if it can survive Grandville and Hudsonville over the next few weeks. East Kentwood (5-1), still off to its best start since 2004, has a similarly tough road as it seeks a sixth win for the first time since that season. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.  

Also noted:

Hudsonville 27, Grand Haven 24 – After two straight one-point losses, Hudsonville (4-2) got on the positive end of a close finish and handed Grand Haven (3-3) its third straight defeat.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 44, Greenville 36 – Forest Hills Northern (6-0) earned the opportunity to face league co-leader Cedar Springs this week by dispatching another O-K Bronze contender in Greenville (4-2).

Hopkins 35, Grandville Calvin Christian 27 – Hopkins (5-1) paid back Calvin Christian (2-4) for a one-point loss in 2013 to remain in line for a fifth-straight O-K Silver title.

Lowell 20, Grand Rapids Christian 12 – The Red Arrows (6-0) continued to impress by claiming a close one over another O-K White power in Grand Rapids Christian (4-2). 

Bay and Thumb

Saginaw Swan Valley 14, Freeland 7

In what was and remains likely to be Swan Valley’s toughest regular-season game, the Vikings (6-0) showed plenty of mettle. The defense continues to rank among the most stellar in Michigan this season after giving up only one score to push this fall’s total points allowed to a mere 29 (Freeland, now 5-1, hadn’t scored fewer than 42). And of course standout running back Alex Grace showed, with 261 yards rushing and both of his team’s touchdowns. Click for more from The Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Burton Bendle 41, Flint Hamady 36 – The Tigers (3-3) have bounced back nicely from a 1-3 start, although Hamady (4-2) – itself impressive after going 0-8 a year ago – didn’t make this easy.

Frankenmuth 21, Birch Run 14 – The Eagles (5-1) likely now need help from Birch Run (5-1) against first-place Millington if the three are to share the Tri-Valley Conference East title.

Fenton 41, Clio 20 – The Tigers (6-0) remain tied for first in the Flint Metro League despite a challenge from much-improved Clio (3-3), which hadn’t won a game since 2009 before opening night.

Davison 34, Bay City Western 28 (OT) – The Cardinals kept their playoff hopes alive and also sit just a win back in the Saginaw Valley Association Blue standings. 


Rapid River 20, Cedarville 19

These two have built quite a rivalry in the Bridge Alliance Conference – Rapid River handed Cedarville its only regular season loss last season, beat Cedarville during the 2012 playoffs after losing to the Trojans by 60 five weeks earlier, and suffered their only regular-season loss to Cedarville during the 2011 season. Add this to the classics. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Lawrence 52, Deckerville 20 – Lawrence (6-0) is again looking like a strong possibility to drive to at least the MHSAA Semifinals; Deckerville (5-1) also had entered undefeated.

Engadine 28, Posen 26 – The Eagles (3-3) got a needed boost, especially with undefeated Bellaire up next.  

PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech improved to 6-0 with a 21-16 win over Detroit East English in Detroit Public School League play. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit PSL.)

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.)