Drive for Detroit: Week 7 in Review

October 10, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Upsets rang out during Week 7 of the high school football season, as league races and playoff hopes were turned sideways by unexpected finishes that played out all over our state. 

See below for notes on this week's batch of results and the twists and turns they provided with only two weeks left in the regular season.

Bay & Thumb

Lake Fenton 22, Corunna 20

Lake Fenton clinched its first league title since 2007 by winning this matchup of former co-leaders in the Genesee Area Conference Red. The Blue Devils (7-0) were outgained in yardage 293-286 but intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, and got rushing and receiving touchdowns from Trent Hillger including the game-winner with 3:24 to play. Reigning league champ Corunna (6-1) led 20-14 heading into the fourth quarter but gave up a safety with 4:51 left in regulation; Lake Fenton went ahead on the ensuing possession. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Davison 28, Lapeer 7 – It took an extra day to get done because of Friday’s storms, but Davison (7-0) held on to clinch a share of the Saginaw Valley League Red title while knocking the Lightning (5-2) into a second-place tie, one win back with a league game to play.

Brown City 24, Harbor Beach 16 – The Green Devils (3-4) are holding out hope for an at-large playoff bid, but did move into second place with Harbor Beach (4-3) in the Greater Thumb Conference East after knocking the Pirates out of first; Harbor Beach plays leader Ubly this week with a chance to create a three-way tie for the title.

Unionville-Sebewaing 28, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 21 – The Patriots (6-1) have rebounded off an opening night loss to Ubly to win six straight and claim a share of the GTC West title, with former co-leader Laker (6-1) now in second and hoping Vassar can beat USA this week.

Freeland 29, Saginaw Swan Valley 14 – The Falcons clinched a share of the Tri-Valley Conference Central title and with only winless Bullock Creek left on the league schedule; Swan Valley (4-3) sat a win back of Freeland (7-0) heading into the night but fell into third place with the loss. 

Greater Detroit

Birmingham Groves 18, Rochester Adams 8

The Oakland Activities Association White has been one of the state’s most competitive conference this fall, which makes Groves’ success that much more impressive. The Falcons (7-0) clinched a share of the league title with this victory and can clinch outright this week against sixth-place Farmington; they were champions of the OAA Blue in 2015. Adams (5-2) fell into third place after having a chance to clinch a share instead; Oak Park still can take a share with a win this week against Seaholm combined with a Farmington upset Friday. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Redford Union 22, Redford Thurston 15 – The Panthers clinched their best finish since at least 2007 with their first win over rival Thurston since 2008; Union is 5-2 and can clinch its first playoff berth since 2006 this week against Dearborn Heights Annapolis (1-6).

Madison Heights Madison 17, Warren Fitzgerald 15 – The Eagles (4-3) bounced back from two straight nonleague losses to hand Fitzgerald (6-1) its first defeat and create a three-way tie for first place in the Macomb Area Conference Silver between these two and South Lake and with one more league game to play.

Romeo 31, Warren Mott 8 – The reigning MHSAA Division 1 champion Bulldogs (5-2) may have two losses, but they are by a combined three points; handing Warren Mott (6-1) its first loss sets Romeo up with a chance to claim a share of the MAC Red title with a win over Dakota and and a Mott win this week over leader Utica Eisenhower.

Detroit Catholic Central 28, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 7 – The Shamrocks (7-0) broke a two-game losing streak to now second-place St. Mary’s (4-3) to hold on to first in the Detroit Catholic League Central with Warren DeLaSalle up next in the final game before Prep Bowl weekend. 


Breckenridge 12, Merrill 0

Sure, Breckenridge (0-9 in 2015) impressed everyone with a 5-0 start this fall. But with the expected favorites in the Mid-State Activities Conference lined up for Weeks 6, 7 and 8, there was no way the Huskies could claim a share of their first league title since 1947, right? Breckenridge (7-0) has answered with two straight shutouts of Carson City-Crystal and now Merrill (5-2) to win the MSAC title outright, regardless of what happens this week against Vestaburg (5-2). Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Also noted:

Clare 35, Roscommon 24 – The excitement in the Jack Pine Conference had been the surge of Roscommon (6-1), but old stand-by Clare (6-1) set itself up to reclaim the league title after missing last year by winning this matchup of what were the co-leaders heading into the night.  

DeWitt 27, St. Johns 7 – The Panthers (6-1) added a 43rd-straight league win and claimed the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title outright against the Redwings (3-4), who fell into third with the loss.

East Lansing 21, Lansing Sexton 6 – By winning this matchup of what were the second-place teams in the CAAC Blue, the Trojans (5-2) gave themselves a chance to earn a share of the title with leader Grand Ledge up next; Sexton (4-3) will turn its focus to securing a playoff berth against two opponents who are a combined 2-12.  

Fowler 16, Dansville 14 – The Eagles (5-2) can’t claim a share of the Central Michigan Athletic Conference title even with a win against rival Pewamo-Westphalia this week, but look a lot better for making the playoffs with undefeated P-W and two-loss Merrill left on the schedule; Dansville (4-3) still has a nice shot too needing wins against two opponents who are a combined 5-9.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Charlevoix 16, Onekama 9

The Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division has four teams (of five total) with records of at least 5-2; Charlevoix not only earned a playoff berth with this win after missing at 5-4 last fall, but also set itself up to play first-place Frankfort this week to earn a share of the league championship. The Red Rayders (6-1) scored all of their points during the first half and held Onekama (5-2) scoreless over the final 18 minutes. The Portagers might be out of the league race, but can still earn a third-straight playoff berth over the next two weeks and potentially play spoiler with Frankfort coming up in Week 9. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.

Also noted:

Hillman 56, Oscoda 42 – After opening 0-3, the Tigers have won four straight and have a shot to extend a 10-season playoff streak; Oscoda (3-4) has fallen in three straight and must win out and hope for an at-large bid.

Whittemore Prescott 22, Rogers City 12 – The Cardinals (4-3) kept themselves alive to add to a nine-season playoff streak, while putting Rogers City (3-4) also in a position of needing to win out and hope to get in at-large.

Traverse City West 16, Cadillac 14 – After losses to rival Central and Benton Harbor by five points or fewer, West (5-2) showed it could win close too and against another strong opponent; Cadillac also is 5-2 and looking for one more win to make the postseason.

Gaylord St. Mary 42, Johannesburg-Lewiston 14 – The Snowbirds (6-1) are one of the best turnaround stories of this season, going from 3-6 a year ago to earning their first playoff berth since 2009; the Cardinals (3-4) must win out for a chance to keep a five-year playoffs streak going.

Southwest Corridor

Coldwater 19, Battle Creek Harper Creek 7

This looked at first glance like the upset of the weekend, but on closer inspection maybe shouldn’t be because Coldwater (5-2) has remained pretty impressive despite a couple of losses. Those defeats were by a point in overtime to Jackson Lumen Christi and 10 points in Week 2 to Marshall, both teams among the top four in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference. The reigning champ Cardinals need a few things to happen to claim a share of the league title this time – it would take a win over Hastings this week plus losses by Harper Creek (6-1) and Lumen Christi – but if nothing else, won’t be a desirable opponent come playoff time. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 24, Bridgman 19 – After going 2-7 a year ago, the Lakers (6-1) have bounced back and earned a playoff berth and a share of the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Blue title by avenging last season’s 28-0 loss to Bridgman (4-3).

Schoolcraft 42, Gobles 0 – The Eagles (7-0) repeated as Southwestern Athletic Conference Central champions by beating second-place Lawton and this weekend third-place Gobles (5-2) by a combined score of 98-7.

Berrien Springs 47, Parchment 13 – The Shamrocks (4-2) set up a championship game this week in the BCS Red by becoming the first team since opening night to hold Parchment (4-3) to fewer than 31 points.  

Watervliet 64, Delton Kellogg 34 – No opponent has been able to completely shut down Watervliet (5-2), which has scored at least 30 in all seven games and earned a shared SAC Lakeshore title (with Constantine) by knocking Delton Kellogg (4-3) into third place in the final game of the league schedule. 

Southeast & Border

Hudson 35, Ida 34

Ida’s 12-game winning streak in the Lenawee County Athletic Association is over thanks to Hudson, which bounced back from a Week 6 loss to Hillsdale to edge the Bluestreaks and move into a tie with them atop the league standings. But this conference title hardly is determined. Ida (6-1) now must play Hillsdale, and Hudson (6-1) has a Week 9 game left with Blissfield – which beat Hillsdale this week. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Blissfield 27, Hillsdale 7 – This first win over Hillsdale (4-3) by the Royals (3-4) in eight tries over the last two decades also helped throw the LCAA standings into a spin, with both of these teams now among five either in first place or a win out with two league games to play.

Concord 41, Quincy 24 – The Yellow Jackets’ title hopes remain alive as they stayed among three first-place teams in the Big 8 Conference (and moved to 6-1 overall) while sending Quincy (5-2) a win back.

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 30, Morenci 26 – The Bobcats (7-0) set up an unofficial Tri-County Conference championship game this week with Sand Creek by surviving Morenci (4-3), which has lost its three games by a combined eight points.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 30, Milan 20 – Nemesis SMCC (4-3) struck again with Milan needing a win to clinch a share of the Huron League title; the Big Reds (6-1) are back in a first-place tie with Grosse Ile with the Falcons and New Boston Huron only a win back with one more league game to play.

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee 28, Ishpeming 16

Two losses to Ishpeming in games that decided Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference titles over the last four seasons no doubt made this victory sweeter for Negaunee (7-0), even if the Hematites aren’t in the hunt this time around. The Miners did clinch a share of the conference championship with the win and put the Hematites (3-3) in a position of needing to win out to guarantee a 15th straight playoff appearance. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Escanaba 19, Gladstone 12 – The Eskymos (6-1) clinched a playoff berth and guaranteed their best finish since 2011, but another win also will give Gladstone (3-4) its best record since 2010.

Gwinn 60, Hancock 32 – The Modeltowners (5-2) now have their best season since 2000 after going 3-6 a year ago, but a strong finish by Hancock (4-3) can net the Bulldogs their first playoff berth since 2006.

Lake Linden-Hubbell 28, Houghton 0 – The Lakes (7-0) took advantage of their break in the Mid-Eastern Conference schedule to put up their first shutout of the fall against a Houghton team that at 3-4 now must win out to have hopes of earning an at-large playoff bid.

Kingsford 35, Iron Mountain 0 – The Flivvers (5-2) put up their third shutout this season and fifth win in a row over Iron Mountain (5-2), which hadn’t been held scoreless since 2014. 

West Michigan

Zeeland East 12, Hudsonville Unity Christian 7

Unity Christian (6-1) had looked close to unstoppable coming into Friday, having won key games close and others by big margins. But Zeeland East (6-1)  – which had fallen this season only to Hamilton in Week 3 – won a defensive battle that saw both teams score their fewest points this fall. The Chix – who moved into the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green this season from the O-K Black – next get league leader Byron Center with a chance to further mash up a race that has seen a handful of teams emerge as the favorite at some point or another over the last few weeks. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.

Also noted:

Zeeland West 42, Hamilton 24 – The Dux (5-2) aren’t too familiar with life in fifth place, but have started to climb as well in the O-K Green, handing former leader Hamilton (5-2) its second straight loss.

Ravenna 29, Whitehall 28 – Ravenna (5-2) handed Whitehall (4-3) a one-point loss for the second week in a row and by doing so got a win closer to locking up a playoff berth after going 3-6 in 2015.

Lowell 41, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 37 – Many eyes were tuned in to updates from this game Friday as Forest Hills Central (5-2) led by 17 with 11:30 to play – but Lowell went ahead less than 10 minutes later to remain atop the O-K White standings and undefeated at 7-0.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 36, Cedar Springs 29 – The Huskies (4-3) broke a three-game losing streak to Cedar Springs (3-4) to set up a title chance this week against the Red Arrows.  


Engadine 52, Cedarville 42

Engadine trailed into the second half, but one of the best wins in Eagles history only got better because of the dramatic finish. They moved to 7-0 for the first time since 1998 and earned a share of the Bridge-Alliance Football League title against a Cedarville program that has lost only five league games total in five seasons of 8-player football. The Trojans (6-1) hadn’t let an opponent get closer than 20 points this fall. Click for more from 9&10 News.

Also noted:  

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 53, Lawrence 14 – Make the Defenders (7-0) another contender for the MHSAA title next month, as this 39-point win over previously-undefeated Lawrence (6-1) was their closest game yet.

Portland St. Patrick 16, Webberville 12 – The Shamrocks (7-0) earned the first win of the Central Michigan 8-Man Conference schedule with Webberville (5-2) producing the toughest competition St. Patrick has seen so far.

Stephenson 52, Rapid River 8 – The Eagles (6-1) could be lurking in the Western Eight Conference, with this win over Rapid River (5-2) their most impressive and leader Powers North Central coming up in Week 9.

PHOTO: A Northville receiver hauls in a pass during his team's 30-24 win over Livonia Stevenson on Friday. (Click to see 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.)