Drive for Detroit: Week 8 in Review

October 17, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

On one hand, this weekend was the second-to-last of a football regular season that seemed this fall to roll by as quickly as ever.

On the other, this weekend was just the start of the second half of the 14-week Michigan high school football season that finishes up in six weeks at Ford Field – and 174 teams have clinched opportunities to continue on the hunt for an MHSAA title.

This annually is one of the most important weeks of the season; more than 600 teams finish up regular-season play, and Sunday we'll announce the 256-team 11-player playoff field and 16 teams that will advance in 8-player. We'll talk about that more as this week goes on. But we'll start with the highlights of all that was Week 8 below.

Bay & Thumb

Flint Carman-Ainsworth 34, Midland Dow 27

The Cavaliers (6-2) bounced back from a 1-2 start to go undefeated in winning the Saginaw Valley League Blue title, but had to beat co-leader Dow in the final game to finish the run. Carman-Ainsworth last won a league title in 2013, but had finished fifth and then fourth in the SVL Red over the last two seasons while Dow was hoping for a third straight Blue title. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Richmond 28, Algonac 13 – For the second straight season, this matchup decided at least partially the Blue Water Area Conference title; for the second straight season, Richmond (7-1) beat Algonac (7-1), this time to win the league outright.

Bay City Central 17, Saginaw Heritage 14 – The Wolves (5-3) held on against the Hawks (3-5) to edge closer to a first playoff berth since 2007, and can clinch a spot this week against rival Bay City Western.

Ubly 54, Harbor Beach 12 – The Bearcats (8-0) won the Greater Thumb Conference East title outright while guaranteeing their best season finish since 2010 and sending Harbor Beach to 4-4.

Marysville 28, St. Clair 27 – The Macomb Area Conference Gold champion Vikings (8-0) guaranteed their best record since 2011 and have a chance to go 9-0 for the first time since 2003 after just edging St. Clair (4-4). 

Greater Detroit

Utica Eisenhower 38, Warren Mott 6

The Eagles (8-0) couldn’t clinch the Macomb Area Conference Red title outright until this final league game, but did so comfortably after jumping out to a 24-0 lead. Five of six teams in the league are still alive for playoff berths – Eisenhower and Mott (6-2) have clinched, and Romeo, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Macomb Dakota can get in with wins this week – which makes Eisenhower’s first league title since 2011 all the more impressive. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Also noted:

Birmingham Brother Rice 20, Traverse City Central 17 (3OT) – The Warriors (5-3) kept themselves alive to return to the playoffs by handing Central (7-1) its first loss with a marathon effort.

Dearborn 28, Dearborn Fordson 23 – This matchup of neighborly rivals also ended up as a matchup of Western Wayne Athletic Conference divisional champs; Dearborn (7-1) broke a three-game losing streak against the Tractors (7-1).

Clarkston 45, Lake Orion 16 – Despite a Week 2 overtime loss to Southfield Arts & Technology, Clarkston (6-2) stormed back to earn a share of the Oakland Activities Association Red title in part because Lake Orion (5-3) handed the Warriors a league loss in Week 5.

Warren Michigan Collegiate 34, Harper Woods Chandler Park 22 – The Cougars (7-1) clinched the Charter School Conference championship for the first time since 2011 as these two met to decide the league title for the third straight year; Chandler Park (5-3) has the week off but will make the playoffs with five wins in eight games. 


Grand Ledge 31, East Lansing 28

The Comets (7-1) jumped to an early lead and saw four players score as they stayed just ahead of East Lansing to clinch the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title outright for the second straight season. East Lansing (5-3) had fallen to Jackson in its league opener but had a chance to create a shared championship with a victory. Grand Ledge’s only loss this season was on opening night, by seven, to Hudsonville. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Clare 31, Beaverton 14 – The Pioneers (7-1) earned a share of their ninth Jack Pine Conference championship in 10 seasons while putting the Beavers (5-3) in a must-win situation this week.

Fowlerville 30, Corunna 15 – The Gladiators (6-2) secured their first playoff berth since 2010, also the last season they won at least six games; Corunna fell to 6-2 as well but had already clinched a spot.

DeWitt 48, Menominee 14 – In a battle of annual Ford Field hopefuls, DeWitt (7-1) became the first this season to hold the Maroons (7-1) to fewer than 28 points.

Brighton 41, Howell 20 – The Bulldogs (7-1) staved off the Highlanders (5-3) to win the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West outright and earn this week’s Lakes final berth against Walled Lake Western. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Frankfort 28, Charlevoix 0

The Panthers (8-0) repeated at Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends division champions with their second straight shutout and third this season. They earned a share and can clinch outright this week against Onekama. The win also extended Frankfort’s best start since 2004, the last time the team finished a perfect regular season. Charlevoix (6-2) still can finish with its most wins since 2006 with another this week against Mesick. Click for more from 9&10 News.

Also noted:

Johannesburg-Lewiston 30, East Jordan 28 – The Cardinals (4-4) kept themselves in the hunt for a sixth straight playoff berth while also forcing East Jordan (4-4) into hoping for an at-large bid.

Harbor Springs 38, Gaylord St. Mary 24 – In what could be considered an upset, Harbor Springs (4-4) actually moved past St. Mary (6-2) in the NMFC Legacy standings with a third straight win.

Cadillac 26, Manistee 22 – With one-loss Traverse City Central and a shot at a share of the Big North Conference title up this week, Cadillac (6-2) was wise to get playoff qualification out of the way with a close win over Manistee (4-4).

Whittemore-Prescott 14, Hillman 0 – The Cardinals (5-3) kept themselves alive for an automatic berth to their 10th straight playoffs, but Hillman (4-4) will need a win and some help to qualify for the 11th straight season.

Southeast & Border

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 48, Sand Creek 20

Whiteford (8-0) closed out its first perfect run through the Tri-County Conference since joining the league in 1975 and set itself up for its first perfect regular season since 1965. The Bobcats have won five straight over Sand Creek, which still is enjoying its best season since 2005. Click for more from the Toledo Blade. 

Also noted:

Brooklyn Columbia Central 28, Dundee 26 – The Golden Eagles (6-2) clinched back-to-back playoff berths for the first time in program history while eliminating Dundee (3-5) from postseason consideration.

Ida 52, Hillsdale 13 – The Bluestreaks (7-1) came up big against a dangerous opponent in Hillsdale (4-4) to remain tied for first with Hudson in the Lenawee County Athletic Association with a game to play.

Monroe Jefferson 20, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 14 – The Bears (4-4) guaranteed their best finish since 2011 and gave themselves a chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2006 while also putting the Falcons (4-4) in a tougher spot as they go for a 13th berth in 14 seasons.

Michigan Center 24, Grass Lake 22 – In arguably the night’s biggest upset statewide, Michigan Center (5-3) gave itself a chance to earn a playoff berth this week and gave Napoleon a share of the Cascades Conference title by dealing co-champion Grass Lake (7-1) its first loss.

Southwest Corridor

Berrien Springs 33, Buchanan 27 (OT)

A two-point loss to Buchanan kept Berrien Springs from winning the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph White title last season, but the Shamrocks finished the run this time after coming back from nine down in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Berrien Springs (5-2) also clinched a playoff berth because it has an eight-game schedule; Buchanan (4-3) also is playing eight games and must beat Niles Brandywine this week to get in automatically. Click for more from the South Bend Tribune.

Also noted:

Battle Creek Harper Creek 21, Marshall 20 – The Beavers (7-1) bounced back from their only loss to just edge Marshall (4-4) and keep a share of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference championship, with Jackson Lumen Christi securing the other half.

Benton Harbor 47, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 21 – The Tigers (8-1) tied their highest win total since 1985 in sending Notre Dame Prep to 4-4.

Schoolcraft 20, Constantine 10 – The Eagles (8-0) got by far their best game of the season from the old rival Falcons (5-3) in a matchup of Southwestern Athletic Conference divisional champions.

Edwardsburg 38, Three Rivers 0 – Make that 28 straight Wolverine Conference wins, four straight league titles (after clinching a share), and three straight shutouts for Edwardsburg (8-0), which has beaten Three Rivers (6-2) in five straight.

Upper Peninsula

Norway 25, Gwinn 2

Norway will need help to claim a share of the Mid-Peninsula Conference title – leader Negaunee can clinch outright this week against two-win Ishpeming Westwood. But the Knights (7-1) have equaled their most victories since 2010 and with another will guarantee their best finish since 2006. Gwinn (5-3) must beat Ishpeming this week to clinch a first playoff berth since 1999. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

Iron River West Iron County 34, Hancock 7 – The Wykons (5-3) remain alive for an automatic berth with L’Anse (2-6) up next; Hancock (4-4) lost that automatic berth chance and must beat rival Houghton (3-5) this week to have an at-large shot.

St. Ignace 24, Ishpeming 16 – The Saints (7-1) avenged last season’s six-point loss to the Hematites (3-4), who must win this week to have a chance at extending their 14-season playoff streak.

Lake Linden-Hubbell 24, Felch North Dickinson 6 – The Broncos (8-0) clinched a share of the Mid-Eastern Conference title and sent North Dickinson (5-3) out of second place and into a must-win situation.

Kingsford 43, Gladstone 14 – The Flivvers (6-2) clinched their second straight playoff berth and fourth in five seasons while knocking Gladstone (3-5) out of consideration.

West Michigan

Muskegon Oakridge 31, Montague 28

Oakridge is another that enjoyed revenge and a league title celebration Friday. The Eagles (8-0) dominated the West Michigan Conference last season before losing to Montague (6-2) by seven in the final league game and finishing second to the Wildcats. This time, Oakridge hung on by scoring the final 17 points including the winning field goal with 25 seconds to play to claim the championship outright. Click for more from the Local Sports Journal.

Also noted:

Byron Center 62, Zeeland East 14 – One of the most competitive league races in all of Michigan will go at least in part to Byron Center(7-1), which clinched a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green title while sending East (6-2) into a tie for third.

Grand Rapids West Catholic 20, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 3 – By many accounts, this was closer than the score indicates; West Catholic now owns a share of the O-K Blue title and has given up only 17 points over five league games after holding GRCC (7-1) 18 below its previous season low.

Lowell 41, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 34 – The comeback Red Arrows (8-0) were down 11 this time before coming back to clinch the O-K White championship and send Forest Hills Northern to 4-4.

Wyoming 20, Greenville 13 – The Wolves (5-3) pulled to within a win of clinching the first playoff berth in the program’s five-year history and kept Greenville (5-3) from clinching as well.


Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 8, Fife Lake Forest Area 6

Tri-unity (8-0) assuredly will make the MHSAA playoffs for the first time – the Defenders have the second-highest playoff point average in 8-player. This win also gave them the Midwest Central Conference championship outright over second-place Fife Lake Forest Area (6-2), which is now playing for one of the final spots in the postseason field. Click for more from the Cadillac News.

Also noted:

Powers North Central 76, Rapid River 18 – Well, the reigning champion Jets look ready for the playoffs with three straight games with more than 75 points, although Rapid River (5-3) did score more than any opponent had since Sept. 9.

Pickford 44, Cedarville 14 – The first-season 8-player Panthers (7-1) handed Cedarville (6-2) the latter’s second straight loss to move into second in the Bridge Alliance.

Webberville 46, Morrice 14 – The Spartans (6-2) battled through a heart-wrenching Friday to win a key game that may have cemented their spot in the playoff field.

PHOTO: Muskegon Oakridge players celebrate during Friday's West Michigan Conference title-clinching win over Montague. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)