Drive for Detroit: Week 9 Preview

October 18, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

What’s still at stake as we dive into Week 9 of this football season?

Heading into Thursday night’s games – there were 11 played – 23 of 91 leagues statewide still had title shares or outright championships up for grabs.

Meanwhile, 171 11-player teams had secured playoff berths – and 71 could win and get in, although there also are 10 matchups between 5-3 teams this weekend that will leave the defeated hoping for at-large bids. The 8-player picture is just a little clearer: At least eight teams appear to be in the running for the final 2-3 spots in that 32-team field. 

You’ll see below many of those league-deciding games, and others with playoff implications perhaps taking higher priority this week over matchups between teams already qualified. All games below are tonight unless noted. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. will broadcast seven games this weekend, and be sure to tune in to FOX Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. Sunday for the “Selection Sunday Show” announcing fields and pairings for the 11 and 8-player brackets. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid

Bay & Thumb

Davison (7-1) at Lapeer (8-0) 

The winner takes the Saginaw Valley League Blue title outright. The lone loss between these teams was Davison’s to Detroit Catholic League Central co-champ Warren DeLaSalle in Week 7. Davison has only one league loss in the last three years – to Midland last season, which left the Cardinals to eventually place second. But they went on to beat Lapeer the next week and again in a playoff opener. This year’s Lightning team has been more successful on both sides of the ball, and the defense has given up more than 19 points only once.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Swartz Creek (6-2) at Ortonville Brandon (7-1), Midland Dow (5-3) at Midland (5-3), Mount Pleasant (8-0) at Saginaw Heritage (5-3), Goodrich (5-3) at Croswell-Lexington (5-3).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Cass Tech (8-0) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (7-1) at Renaissance

These two rolled through their divisions of the Detroit Public School League so thoroughly that there hasn’t been much to point out over the last six weeks. But their rematch will decide the PSL “A” playoff champion; King won last year’s PSL semifinal meeting 17-7, and both teams went on to reach MHSAA Semifinals. The Crusaders’ only loss this fall was Week 2 against Muskegon, by three – the closest game for the Big Reds this season. Cass Tech’s only close game was a Week 2 one-point win over Ohio power Lakewood St. Edward. The Technicians have outscored PSL teams the last six weeks by a combined 269-7.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Brighton (7-1) at Belleville (8-0), Oak Park (7-1) at Clarkston (7-1), Grosse Ile (8-0) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (8-0), SATURDAY Warren DeLaSalle (6-1) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (5-2) at Ford Field, Detroit Public Safety Academy (7-1) at Sterling Heights Parkway Christian (8-0).


Williamston (7-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (8-0)

This one means nothing in the standings but could tell a lot about two playoff hopefuls. The Pirates will try to add to back-to-back Division 7 championships starting next week after yet another incredible regular season where they’ve outscored their first eight opponents by a combined 447-34 – and that included a 38-0 Week 1 win over Ithaca, which hasn’t lost since. With a win tonight, Williamston would lock up its best regular-season record since 2010, when it went on to finish Division 4 runner-up. The Hornets’ only trip-up came against St. Johns in Week 4, but over the last month they’ve beaten three teams that still have playoff aspirations heading into tonight.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Montague (7-1) at Portland (8-0), East Lansing (7-1) at Okemos (6-2), Saginaw Swan Valley (8-0) at St. Johns (5-3), Holton (5-3) at Howard City Tri-County (4-4).  

Northern Lower Peninsula

New Lothrop (8-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-0)

The Traverse City West/Petoskey game could have league implications, but it’s hard to not talk more about New Lothrop making the trip up north. The Hornets are hoping to finish their eighth perfect regular season over the last nine years, and beat an eventual league champion in Maple City Glen Lake on opening night before a perfect run through the first-year Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. St. Francis also has a victory over Glen Lake, and by a similar margin. But the Gladiators have yet to win by fewer than 35 points – making this an important test for them as well heading into the playoffs. 

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Traverse City West (6-2) at Petoskey (5-3), Frankfort (5-3) at Benzie Central (5-3), Manton (4-4) at Rogers City (7-1), Cheboygan (4-4) at Elk Rapids (6-2).

Southeast & Border

Grass Lake (8-0) at Reading (8-0), Saturday

The Cascades Conference champion meets the Big 8 Conference title winner in one of five matchups pitting undefeated teams this week. The Warriors got here with defense – they have yet to give up more than 16 points in a game – while Reading, as noted last week, has had one of the most impressive defensive showings in the state. The Rangers gave up 14 in clinching the league title last week to bring their total number of points allowed to 33 this fall.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Dundee (5-3) at Hillsdale (7-1), Michigan Center (7-1) at Springport (7-1), Brooklyn Columbia Central (7-1) at Hudson (4-4), Ida (6-2) at Blissfield (5-3).

Southwest Corridor

Cassopolis (8-0) at Centreville (8-0) 

The Southwest 10 Conference championship comes down to this matchup of a team that’s had its share of recent success and another that is one of this season’s best turnaround success stories. Cassopolis was runner-up in the conference a year ago and won its old Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Red in 2016. Centreville, meanwhile, will finish with its first winning record since 2008 and after claiming a total of five victories over the last three seasons. And talk about defense, the Bulldogs have given up 34 points this fall – and these Rangers have given up a mere 24.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Schoolcraft (7-1) vs. Kalamazoo United (8-0) at Vicksburg, Portage Northern (6-2) at St. Joseph (5-3), Plainwell (5-3) at Otsego (5-3), Napoleon (5-3) at Quincy (5-3).

Upper Peninsula

Gaylord (5-3) at Sault Ste. Marie (5-3)

Sault Ste. Marie has bounced back from two straight two-win seasons and a 1-2 start to this one to reach the verge of returning the postseason despite scoring only 123 points over seven games – they’ve made it by giving up only 15 per game. Gaylord is looking to take the next step after missing the playoffs last season as a 5-4 finisher. Speaking of “so close,” the last two weeks have been excruciating for the downstate Blue Devils with two one-point losses that would’ve meant a league title had they gone the other way.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Kingsford (4-4) at Escanaba (6-2), Norway (4-4) at Iron River West Iron County (6-2), Gwinn (5-3) at Munising (4-4), Marquette (4-4) at Menominee (1-7). 

West Michigan

Rockford (5-3) at East Kentwood (7-1)

A share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championship is at stake. So is a lot more. The Falcons have clinched at least a share of the league title. But Rockford can earn a share as well with a third-straight win in this series – and although the Rams would be a strong at-large candidate at 5-4, they must win to guarantee continuing a 23-year playoff streak. It’s the longest active postseason football streak in the state, and also tied for the longest all-time.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Zeeland East (7-1) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-1), Saugatuck (7-1) at Fennville (7-1), Berrien Springs (7-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (7-1), Hudsonville (5-3) at Holland West Ottawa (6-2).


Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (8-0) at Colon (8-0)

The Magi can finish their first perfect regular season since 1957 (according the, and have picked it up the last three weeks outscoring those opponents by a combined 150-6 – despite the fact two of those teams are possible playoff qualifiers. For Tri-unity Christian, this would be a second perfect regular season in three years. But that hardly makes it less significant. The Defenders have reached three straight playoffs and advanced to the Semifinals two years ago. A win of this magnitude would be the best way to keep things rolling into their next postseason trip. 

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Powers North Central (7-1) at Stephenson (5-3), Tekonsha (5-3) at Bellevue (7-1), Pickford (8-0) at Cedarville (5-3), Peck (5-3) at Deckerville (6-2).

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PHOTO: Saginaw Heritage, here against Arthur Hill this fall, is among 71 teams hoping to qualify for the MHSAA Playoffs with a win this weekend. (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.)