Drive for Detroit: Week 8 in Review

October 19, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

One point can mean one win and change an entire season. More than a few teams are feeling that impact after a nail-biting Week 8. 

Michigan high school teams played nine one-point games last week. And those games resulted in the naming of two league champions, two more teams not winning a share of league titles, two teams earning playoff spots and three more keeping playoff hopes alive, and two more seeing their playoff hopes dashed. 

See more on most of those games in this week's report below. 

Bay & Thumb

Richmond 15, Algonac 14

This still has been a dream season for Algonac (7-1) – but the Muskrats were forced to share some of it with perennial power Richmond (7-1) after the Blue Devils held them scoreless over the second half of their Blue Water Area Conference title-deciding contest. Richmond gets a share of the title – its second in three seasons – with its lone league loss by one to Almont. Algonac’s share was its first league title since 1972 and came after a 1-8 finish only a year ago. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.

Also noted:

Montrose 7, Flint Beecher 6 – For the first time in a long time, this didn’t have Genesee Area Conference Red title implications for both, but Montrose (5-3) needed a win to stay alive for an automatic playoff berth and in the process kept Beecher (5-2) from claiming a share of the title.

New Lothrop 49, Flint Hamady 0 – Hamady (6-2) had a chance to make the GAC Blue title also a three-team share, but New Lothrop (8-0) held on for the outright championship for the sixth straight season.

Croswell-Lexington 28, Almont 27 – Back to the BWAC, Croswell-Lexington (6-2) earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2012 with its first win over Almont (6-2) since that fall.

Birch Run 21, Essexville Garber 15 – The Panthers (5-3) stayed alive for a second straight playoff berth, while Garber (4-4) will need a win and good fortune to extend a three-year postseason streak. 

Greater Detroit

Macomb Dakota 35, Sterling Heights Stevenson 28 (OT)

A wild Macomb Area Conference Red race finally is sorted out, with Dakota (6-2) – which suffered its only league loss all the way back in Week 3 – emerging as champion for the fourth straight season. Stevenson (6-2), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Utica Eisenhower all finished a game back and Warren Mott was two win out – and Eisenhower and Mott can join the other three with automatic playoff berths if they win this week. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Also noted:

Harper Woods Chandler Park 28, Warren Michigan Collegiate 18 – Chandler Park (6-2) has put together a pair of streaks that remain under the radar; the Eagles have made the playoffs all seven seasons they’ve played a full schedule, and this win over Michigan Collegiate (5-3) made them 40-0 in Charter School Conference play all-time.  

Madison Heights Madison 56, St. Clair Shores South Lake 42 – Madison (7-1) won its 19th straight MAC Silver game and fourth straight league title while handing South Lake (7-1) its first loss this fall – which is still one to celebrate after South Lake's 2-7 finish in 2014.

Waterford Our Lady 36, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 10 – The Detroit Catholic League C-D title came down to two undefeated teams, but Our Lady (8-0) emerged with its third straight championship although the Cranes are still enjoying their best season since at least 2005.

Warren Cousino 35, Grosse Pointe North 34 – Another one-pointer meant a shared MAC Blue title between these two after Cousino (5-3) beat North (4-4) by three last season to claim the championship outright. 


Pewamo-Westphalia 34, Fowler 7

The 50th game between these rivals extended a pattern of the teams trading victories to seven seasons. The Pirates (8-0) also kept a streak alive of giving up no more than seven points, which they've done seven straight weeks after giving up 25 in a win over Madison Heights Madison on opening night. Most importantly, P-W linched an outright Central Michigan Athletic Conference title. Fowler, last season’s champion, finished third but remains playoff-ready at 6-2. Click for more from the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.

Also noted:

Grand Ledge 31, East Lansing 21 – The Trojans (4-4) put a scare into Grand Ledge (8-0) nearly to the end, but the Comets emerged with a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title and a chance to win it outright this week against second-place Holt.

Fowlerville 24, Lake Odessa Lakewood 21 – Not only did the Gladiators (4-4) hand Lakewood (7-1) its first loss this fall, they stayed in the running for an at-large playoff bid that would return them to the postseason for the first time since 2010. 

Lansing Everett 33, Lansing Sexton 32 – With nothing to play for but city pride, these two enjoyed another nail-biting classic, with Everett (3-5) breaking a two-season winning streak by the Big Reds (1-7) – who lost their fifth game by a touchdown or less and third by a point.

Haslett 28, Williamston 7 – The Vikings (5-3) remain alive for an automatic playoff berth after missing last season, and Williamston (4-4) might have a shot at an at-large bid with a win this week over Lake Fenton. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Frankfort 20, Charlevoix 0

Frankfort clinched its first league title since 2008 and avenged Charlevoix’s win in this matchup a year ago. By moving to 7-1, the Panthers also guaranteed their best finish since at least 2011 and like Fowler, kept alive a streak of giving up no more than seven points in a game since opening night. In fact, the Panthers have given up only 42 all fall. Charlevoix (5-3) still can clinch a playoff spot this week against Harbor Springs. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Traverse City West 35, Gaylord 14 – After an 0-4 start, the Titans (4-4) have stormed back and have a chance at an at-large bid with their best win yet over solid Gaylord (5-3).

Lake City 41, Lincoln Alcona 34 – The Trojans (4-4) got a giant boost to their at-large hopes by downing a Tigers team that is 5-3 and could clinch an automatic berth this week.

Kingsley 27, Maple City Glen Lake 6 – The Stags (5-3) still face undefeated Traverse City St. Francis, but put themselves in position to earn an automatic bid or make a play for an at-large invitation by downing Glen Lake (4-4).

Whittemore-Prescott 38, Hillman 14 – The North Star Big Dipper champion Cardinals (5-3) won this battle of league title winners by downing Little Dipper champ Hillman (6-2). 

Southeast & Border

Manchester 29, Vandercook Lake 7

The Dutchmen (7-1) claimed the Cascades Conference championship outright by slowing a team that had scored at least 27 points in every game and averaged 41 points per heading into the contest. The title was Manchester’s fourth straight. Vandercook Lake (7-1) is still enjoying its best season since 1996. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.

Also noted:

Jackson 63, Holt 41 – The Vikings (6-2), 1-8 a year ago, clinched their first playoff berth of the coach Scott Farley era and first at all since 2009 by downing similar playoff hopeful Holt (5-3).

Chelsea 9, Ann Arbor Pioneer 7 – The Bulldogs (7-1) showed again they’ll be dangerous in the playoffs by dealing a close loss to much larger Ann Arbor Pioneer (6-2).

Ida 20, Hillsdale 17 (OT) – The Bluestreaks (8-0) made sure they were at least partial Lenawee County Athletic Association champions, earning a share of the league title with Hillsdale (5-3) attempting to create a three-way tie at the top.

Homer 40, Union City 34 – The Trojans (7-1) already had claimed a share of the Big 8 Conference title, but reigning champ Union City (4-4) didn’t let the outright championship come easily. 

Southwest Corridor

Buchanan 21, Berrien Springs 19

The renewing of this rivalry played out as competitively as one would expect from a pair of undefeated teams contending for a league title. After a three-season break, the pair met for the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference White championship – and Buchanan (8-0) earned it in part by blocking an extra-point try and stopping a two-point conversion attempt. The Bucks this week will play for their first perfect regular season since 1988, while Berrien Springs (7-1) still is headed for its best regular-season finish since 2005. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.

Also noted:

Kalamazoo Central 33, Benton Harbor 18 – The Maroon Giants (3-5) made playoff hopes much dimmer for Benton Harbor (4-4), but also gave themselves a chance at their best record since 2011.

Bridgman 34, Niles Brandywine 26 – The Bees (7-1) clinched the BCS Blue title for the second straight season and after two straight losses to Brandywine (5-3).

Dowagiac 36, Otsego 34 – The Chiefs (5-3) moved a win closer to returning to the playoffs after missing last season at 3-6.

St. Joseph 45, Battle Creek Lakeview 21 – The Bears (7-1) have secured a playoff berth after missing last season, but Lakeview (5-3) must win this week to do the same despite claiming a share of its league title. 

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming 20, St. Ignace 14

This meeting of league champions was another that met expectations, with Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference champion Ishpeming (7-0) winning its 26th straight regular-season game and handing Ski Valley champ St. Ignace (7-1) its first regular season loss after 16 straight wins. Ishpeming held the Saints to their season-low points but scored their second fewest of the fall. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.

Also noted:

Crystal Falls Forest Park 34, Munising 8 – The Trojans (5-2) are making what might be their final season of 11-player football count, this time downing reigning Division 8 runner-up Munising (6-2) to qualify for the playoffs and clinch a share of the Mid-Eastern Football Conference title.

Escanaba 34, Sault Ste. Marie 8 – An upset of the Blue Devils (5-3) gave the Eskymos (4-4) their most wins since 2012 and the chance to play for an at-large playoff bid.

Iron Mountain 28, Hurley, Wis. 13 – The Mountaineers (5-3) look much better to earn a playoff spot this week against two-win Norway after doubling up always-tough Hurley (7-2).

Menominee 40, DeWitt 35 – The Maroons’ 30-game regular-season winning streak has included its share of impressive victories, but moving to 8-0 against an undefeated DeWitt team (7-1) loaded with speed should put additional fear into potential playoff opponents.

West Michigan

Muskegon Mona Shores 21, Muskegon 18

Statewide eyes turned toward this matchup of Muskegon rivals, and roughly 10,000 fans saw Mona Shores jump out to a 21-3 lead before withstanding a late Big Reds charge. Mona Shores moved to 8-0 for the first time in program history with its second straight win over Muskegon (6-2), which suffered its second three-point loss of the season. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Ada Forest Hills Eastern 49, Cedar Springs 12 – The Hawks (8-0) guaranteed themselves a share of the O-K Bronze title and also set a program record for wins while forcing Cedar Springs (5-3) into a must-win position this week.

Grandville 38, Hudsonville 13 – The Bulldogs (5-3) turned the O-K Red into the best league race left by handing Hudsonville (6-2) its first league loss and creating a four-way tie at the top with one game to play and a guarantee of two champions.

Lowell 35, East Grand Rapids 13 – The Red Arrows (7-1) earned a share of a third straight league title in one of the state’s most competitive, while putting East Grand Rapids (5-3) in a must-win spot as well.

Montague 36, Muskegon Oakridge 29 (OT) – The West Michigan Conference title came down to overtime before Montague (8-0) prevailed over the reigning champion Eagles (6-2).

Reed City 26, Remus Chippewa Hills 7 – The Coyotes (8-0) claimed their fifth straight league title by downing second-place Chippewa Hills (6-2) to win the Central State Activities Association Gold. 


Onaway 62, Bellaire 14

Onaway pushed into the 16th spot with a week to play as it pursues its first playoff berth since 2012 in its first season of 8-player football. The Cardinals (5-3) must play another 5-3 team, Pickford, this week to try to hold on to the final spot in the field. Bellaire (4-4) has fallen in two straight as its pursued making the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Also noted:

Deckerville 50, Peck 6 – The battle for the North Central Thumb 8-Man title didn’t turn into much of one, with Deckerville (7-1) breaking a three-game losing streak to the Pirates (6-2).

Powers North Central 82, Rapid River 20 – The Jets (8-0) gave up their most points this season, but also tied their highest output on offense while downing the Rockets (5-3).

Engadine 58, Stephenson 42 – This might have been the best game of the week in 8-player, featuring two teams that have taken great strides but with Engadine (6-2) striding just a little bit farther than Stephenson (5-3) at this point. 

PHOTO: Muskegon Mona Shores welcomed a reported 10,000 fans for Friday's 21-18 victory over rival Muskegon. 

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.)