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.

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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.

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PHOTO: Saginaw Swan Valley locks down an Alma ball carrier during Friday's win over the Panthers. 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.)