Drive for Detroit: Week 6 in Review

October 1, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Start printing the tickets.

A total of 55 undefeated 11-player football teams have clinched spots in this season’s 256-team field, all but one doing so with wins during our latest highlight-filled weekend. (Jackson Lumen Christi, playing eight regular-season games, clinched a berth in Week 5.)

Our look below at 45 results from Friday and Saturday notes many of these, but focuses mostly on league races – some partially clinched, many still completely up for grabs with three weeks to play until the postseason begins.

“Drive for Detroit” is powered by MI Student Aid

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER: Saginaw Swan Valley 34, Alma 6 The Vikings (6-0) clinched a share of the Tri-Valley Conference Central title for the second straight season with another stifling defensive performance. Swan Valley has given up 54 points total this season and no more than seven in four league games. Alma (5-1) hadn’t been held to so few points since Week 4 of 2016. Click for more from the Saginaw News and see highlights below from WJRT.

Also of note: North Branch 37, Richmond 0 This was the Broncos’ best win in … well, at least this decade and perhaps longer. North Branch (5-1) is on a major comeback after going 1-8 a year ago, and in its first season in the Blue Water Area Conference suddenly sits in second place after winning big against one of the yearly favorites. 

Remember this one: Flint Hamady 34, Goodrich 28 These teams are leading separate divisions of the Genesee Area Conference, but beating the Martians (4-2) will help Hamady (6-0) down the road. Six of the Hawks’ opponents are Class C, but Goodrich is Class B and provides a nice playoff point boost.

More shoutouts: Lapeer 42, Grand Blanc 10 With this win over the third-place Bobcats (4-2), Lapeer (6-0) guaranteed its Week 9 game against co-leader Davison will guarantee one of those teams at least a share of the Saginaw Valley League Blue title. Swartz Creek 49, Linden 28 The Dragons’ now-squashed losing streak against Linden (3-3) stretched 12 seasons to when the former joined the Flint Metro League in 2006. Swartz Creek (5-1) can earn its first playoff berth since 2012 next week and remains undefeated in league play.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER: Belleville 29, Dearborn Fordson 26 The Tigers (6-0) went ahead for good in the fourth quarter and held on through a late Fordson drive to move into first place alone in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East – and take an upper hand at the statewide level as both stand to be Division 1 contenders when the playoff field is selected in three weeks. The Tractors (5-1) have lost only to Belleville over the last two regular seasons. Click for more from MLive-Detroit and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network

Also of note: Detroit Loyola 20, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 17 Loyola (4-2) sits atop the Detroit Catholic League AA standings by a half game with one more league win than Detroit U-D Jesuit, this week’s opponent. The Cranes fell to 4-2 with their losses by a combined 10 points. 

Remember this one: Detroit Osborn 12, Detroit Western International 6 The Knights, after going only 1-8 a year ago, clinched a share of the Detroit Public School League Gold title. Western (4-2), however, remains in position to secure its second straight playoff berth after making the postseason a year ago for the first time. 

More shoutouts: Detroit Community 30, Detroit University Prep Science & Math 8 Community won an outright division title in the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference, and also clinched the first playoff berth in the program's eight varsity seasons. Grosse Ile 33, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 14 The Red Devils (6-0) face both second-place teams in the Huron League over the next two weeks and need to beat one to clinch a share of the title. But that opportunity started with getting past the Falcons (4-2), who beat Grosse Ile 20-7 a year ago. Gibraltar Carlson 47, Allen Park 29 The Marauders (5-1), after finishing second in the Downriver League a year ago, are tied for first after beating the only team, Allen Park (4-2), that has beaten co-leader Brownstown Woodhaven (which defeated Carlson in Week 1). 


HEADLINER: Mount Pleasant 40, Midland 20 The Oilers (6-0) moved into a first-place tie with only Midland Dow in the SVL Red by sending Midland (3-3) into third place. All three teams still have three league games to play, but Mount Pleasant has guaranteed its best record and first playoff berth since 2015. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Also of note: Haslett 33, St. Johns 14 These two and Williamston are tied for first place in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red. The Vikings (5-1) finish with winless Lansing Eastern, while St. Johns (3-3) faces a challenge this week from Fowlerville and Williamston gets Mason.


Remember this one: Dansville 40, Fowler 9 It’s hard to get credit in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference when two-time reigning Division 7 champion Pewamo-Westphalia is dominating the headlines. But the Aggies (5-1) are tied for first heading into this week’s game with the Pirates and after going 3-6 a year ago. And Fowler (4-2) has equaled its win total from last season with three more games to play.


More shoutouts: Mason 19, Fowlerville 15 The Bulldogs (3-3) have rebounded from 2-7 a year ago and are a combined nine points from being 5-1 and tied for first in the CAAC Red as well. Olivet 56, Vermontville Maple Valley 8 The Eagles quietly are off to a second straight 6-0 start (and with a win over Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver leader Hopkins) heading into this week’s Greater Lansing Activities Conference title decider against reigning champion Lake Odessa Lakewood.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER: Maple City Glen Lake 23, Elk Rapids 15 The Lakers (3-3) opened 0-2 and took a third tough defeat to Gladstone two weeks ago, but rallied to claim a share of the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders championship. Elk Rapids (4-2) and Frankfort are tied for second with a game to play for all three. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle and check out highlights below from MI Sports Now.

Also of note: Lake City 27, Leroy Pine River 0 The Trojans (6-0) clinched a share of a second straight Highland Conference title by downing an improved Pine River team that fell to 4-2 but would’ve created a three-way tie for first with a win. 

Remember this one: Traverse City West 19, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 13 Although a non-league win for Big North Conference leader West (4-2), it should be a key playoff confidence builder as the Cavaliers have played much better than their 3-3 record. 

More shoutouts: Manistee 39, Riverview Gabriel Richard 6 A week after clinching a share of the Lakes 8 Conference, Manistee (6-0) won big against the Catholic League Intersectional l-leading Pioneers (3-3). Oscoda 50, Tawas 15 Defeating rival Tawas (3-2) is always a plus, and the Owls (5-1) extended their winning streak to five with their fourth game of 50 or more points this fall.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER: Jackson 39, Ypsilanti Lincoln 14 The Vikings (6-0) pulled a major step closer to earning their first league title since 1942, downing the second-place Railsplitters (4-2). Jackson finishes its league schedule against back-to-back opponents with 2-4 records. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot and see highlights below from JTV.

Also of note: Grass Lake 14, Michigan Center 10 A year after Michigan Center and Napoleon shared the Cascades Conference title, Grass Lake (6-0) and Napoleon are tied for first with two league games to play and the Cardinals (5-1) now trailing by one win. Grass Lake and Napoleon play this week. 

Remember this one: Hillsdale 37, Blissfield 27 The final three games are going to be just as difficult, but getting past the Royals (4-2) put the Hornets (6-0) in first alone in the Lenawee County Athletic Association. 

More shoutouts: Pittsford 28, Athens 6 This win combined with Lenawee Christian’s loss gave the Wildcats (6-0) a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association title and dropped Athens (3-2) out of contention. Parma Western 30, Battle Creek Pennfield 13 The Panthers (5-1) moved into a second-place tie in the Interstate 8 Activities Conference by knocking Pennfield (4-2) out of a tie for first. 

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER: Kalamazoo Central 26, Battle Creek Central 20 (OT) Meeting 115 between these century-old rivals was a classic and earned the Maroon Giants (4-2) a share of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East title. The Bearcats (4-2) came back from two scores down after three quarters, but Kalamazoo Central made a last stand in overtime. The teams were a combined 5-13 just a year ago. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer and see below for highlights from FOX 17.

Also of note: St. Joseph 13, Portage Central 6 Despite a Week 4 loss to Stevensville Lakeshore, St. Joseph is back in the SMAC West hunt thanks to a second-straight win over formerly first place Portage Central (4-2). 

Remember this one: Centreville 20, Mendon 0 The Bulldogs (6-0) had been outscored by Mendon (3-3) a combined 145-0 over the last three seasons, but sit atop the Southwest 10 Conference thanks to this win. 

More shoutouts Climax-Scotts 62, Adrian Lenawee Christian 20 In its only home game this season and last as an 11-player team (C-S is switching to 8-player next season), the Panthers shook up the SCAA standings and kept their playoff hopes alive. Schoolcraft 63, Constantine 27 The Eagles (5-1) stayed tied for first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley with a big win keyed by an MHSAA-record nine rushing touchdowns from junior Kobe Clark.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER: Ishpeming 44, Gwinn 8 The Hematites (6-0) set up a likely league-deciding matchup this week with Iron River West Iron County with a big win over former Western Peninsula Athletic Conference small-school co-leader Gwinn. The Modeltowners (4-2) still could figure into the race with a Week 8 meeting against West Iron also coming up. Click for more from ABC10.

Also of note: Marquette 21, Kingsford 20 The Redmen (3-3) have climbed back from an 0-2 start to move into first place alone in the Great Northern Conference. Kingsford (2-4) must win out for a chance at an at-large playoff bid. 

Remember this one: Escanaba 20, Menominee 12 The Eskymos (4-2) made it two in a row over the Maroons (1-5), and also formerly ended Menominee’s chances at making the playoffs for a 23rd straight season.

More shoutouts: Calumet 24, Iron Mountain 0 The Copper Kings (6-0) haven’t allowed a point in two weeks and have given up only 32 total – and Iron Mountain (4-2) was averaging 30 per game entering the night. Sault Ste. Marie 14, Gladstone 7 The Blue Devils (4-2) won their third game this season by seven points or fewer – and their four wins are as many as the last two seasons combined.

West Michigan

HEADLINER: Grand Rapids Christian 21, Middleville Thornapple Kellogg 14 The Eagles avenged last season’s four-point loss to the Trojans (5-1) by knocking them out of a tie for first place in the O-K Gold. Grand Rapids Christian (5-1) continues to share the top spot with East Grand Rapids. Click for more from FOX 17.

Also of note: Grand Rapids West Catholic 38, Spring Lake 21 The Falcons (3-3) aren’t done yet. With their playoff hopes on the line, reigning Division 5 champion West Catholic handed Spring Lake (5-1) its first loss – and moved into a tie for first in the O-K Blue.

Remember this one: Wyoming Godwin Heights 23, Wyoming Kelloggsville 14 Last season a one-point Kelloggsville win decided the O-K Silver. The Wolverines (3-3) broke a two-game losing streak to the Rockets (3-3) this time to push both into a second-place tie with Belding, one win behind leader Hopkins. 

More shoutouts: East Grand Rapids 42, Grand Rapids South Christian 29 EGR (4-2) shares first in the O-K Gold and likely will be cheering for the Sailors (3-3) this week against Grand Rapids Christian. Hudsonville 16, Grandville 13 (OT) The Eagles (5-1) just held on as one of two teams undefeated in the O-K Red, breaking a four-game losing streak to the Bulldogs (2-4). 


HEADLINER: Pickford 59, Stephenson 8 Will anyone catch the Panthers? No team has so far, as Pickford (6-0) has outscored its opponents by a combined 327-47. This big win came against a Stephenson team that while 4-2 could still push for a league title. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.

Also of note: Colon 51, Camden-Frontier 0 The Magi (6-0) continued to impress in their first season of 8-player, handing the Redskins (4-2) their first shutout in three seasons playing this format.

Also of note: Powers North Central 52, Crystal Falls Forest Park 28 The Jets (5-1) moved into first place alone in the Great Lakes Conference West, a win away from clinching a share of the title while Forest Park (3-3) sits tied for second.

More shoutouts: Hillman 38, Posen 34 The Tigers (5-1) continued factoring into the Midwest Central Michigan Conference East race by knocking Posen (5-1) out of a tie for first. Peck 8, Mayville 0 The Pirates (5-1) moved into first place with Deckerville in the North Central Thumb League Blue by sending Mayville (4-2) into a tie for third.

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 locks down an Alma ball carrier during Friday's win over the Panthers. 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.)