Drive for Detroit: Week 9 in Review

October 27, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The biggest news of this weekend undoubtedly came Sunday night, when the field for this season’s MHSAA Football Playoffs was announced.

But before we move on, let’s pay a final homage to another regular season – and some memorable highlights that made their way in before Week 9 came to a close Saturday night.

Consider these appetizers:

  • Hanover-Horton defeated Quincy 50-48 in six overtimes Thursday; it was the sixth game in MHSAA history to go at least six overtimes, with the record nine and six tied for second-longest.

  • Crystal Falls Forest Park beat rival Lake Linden-Hubbell 36-22 to finish second in the Great Western Conference but remain undefeated in Michigan this fall – the Trojans' lone loss was to league champion Hurley, from Wisconsin.

  • Saginaw Arthur Hill beat rival Saginaw High 28-0. Neither of these teams will move on – this was the only win this fall between the two – but this ended a rivalry that began in 1894, as the schools will combine beginning next summer.

Read on for the main course, including some of the details behind the final league championships decided this fall. 

West Michigan

Muskegon Mona Shores 48, Muskegon 27

Muskegon has been able to make the argument the last two seasons for being the best of the always-strong west Michigan football scene – the Big Reds (8-1) were a combined 24-4 in 2012 and 2013, finishing Division 2 runner-up both seasons. That’s part of why Mona Shores’ win Friday sent statewide shockwaves. Although the Sailors (8-1) played Muskegon to within six points last season and later earned their first playoff berth ever, and have risen this fall to the cusp of elite as well, defeating the Big Reds gave Mona Shores its first league title since 1968 and a school record for victories with arguably its best win in program history. It also was Mona Shores’ first over Muskegon since 1982 Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 26, Middleville Thornapple Kellogg 13 – The Cougars (6-3) added to a now seven-season playoff streak despite opening 2-3.

Caledonia 38, Grand Rapids Christian 14 – Despite its impressive run over the last five weeks, Caledonia (7-2) still could’ve lost its share of the O-K White title against the dangerous Eagles (5-4) – who did make the playoffs with an at-large bid.

Grandville 22, Hudsonville 7 – Five of six O-K Red teams finished with overall winning records this fall, which makes a good case why both of these earned at-large playoff bids with matching 5-4 records.

Muskegon Catholic Central 45, Ravenna 0 – The Crusaders (9-0) have won 21 straight and are the likely Division 8 favorite again with four shutouts including this latest of solid Ravenna (7-2). 

Bay and Thumb

Midland Dow 35, Midland 17

There’s joy on one side of this Midland rivalry, but both schools should share a sense of pride. Dow has been solid over the years, but had fallen to its neighbor 11 times in their past 12 games – so beating the Chemics was probably the best possible scenario for Dow as it finished its first perfect regular season since its MHSAA championship year of 1976. The Chargers also helped put to an end one of the most incredible runs in MHSAA regular-season history; Midland finished 4-5 and sub-.500 for the first time since 1976. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Also noted:

Fenton 35, Linden 29 – The Tigers (9-0) edged another playoff team in Linden (6-3) to finish perfect for the regular season for the first time since 1985.

Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 27, Birch Run 20 – The Cardinals (8-1) beat another playoff team in the Panthers (7-2) to guarantee their best finish since 1994.  

New Lothrop 35, Montrose 21 – The Hornets (9-0) finished their fifth straight perfect regular season with one of the most impressive wins of the run, over arguably one of the best six-win teams in the state in Montrose (6-3).

Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 14, Beal City 13 – The Lakers finished their first 9-0 regular season since 2002 against the two-time reigning Division 8 runner-up Aggies (7-2) after both decided to play instead of claiming forfeit wins from their original Week 9 opponents. 

Greater Detroit

Birmingham Brother Rice 35, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 28

What a way to finish the regular season – the final 11-player game before the start of the 2014 playoffs was even better than billed, considering the Warriors had defeated the Eaglets 28-20 only three weeks ago. Brother Rice (9-0) pulled within 28-27 on Grant Perry’s fourth touchdown catch and with only 24 seconds left in the Detroit Catholic League Prep Bowl at Ford Field, then decided to go for two points and the win. Perry caught the conversion pass from quarterback Alex Malzone to take the lead, and the Warriors added their final points off a turnover on the final play of the game. St. Mary’s only losses in going 7-2 are to Brother Rice. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Also noted:

Detroit Cass Tech 39, Detroit Martin Luther King 7 – The Detroit Public School League championship game matched undefeated teams and proved again the strength of Division 1 contender Cass Tech (9-0), with Martin Luther King (8-1) still expected to contend in Division 2 as well.

Clarkston 31, Farmington Hills Harrison 24 – The Wolves (9-0) have won 22 straight with this against Harrison (7-2) only the third game of that streak decided by seven points or fewer.

Dearborn Fordson 17, Monroe 6 – The Tractors (9-0) held strong again against one of their toughest opponents so far, Monroe (6-3), to finish undefeated for the third regular season over the last seven.

Hudson 34, Hillsdale 14 – The Lenawee County Athletic Association title came down to the final week, and this time Hudson (8-1) clinched it outright after sharing last season with both Hillsdale (7-2) and Ida.

Upper Peninsula

Menominee 48, Marquette 28

Menominee (9-0) is Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference champion for the second straight season, although not without facing one of its toughest challenges in some time. Second-place Marquette (7-2) gave the Maroons arguably their best regular-season game since a 14-13 loss to Kingsford in 2012 and scored the most points given up by the Maroons in the regular season since 2011. Menominee’s offense keeps churning, averaging 48 points per game with its 48 against Marquette the most the Redmen had given up since 2009. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Negaunee 27, Ishpeming Westwood 9 – The Miners (5-4) kept their three-year playoff string going, but needed this win over Westwood (6-3) to take full advantage of the Patriots’ best regular-season finish since 2011.

Bark River-Harris 8, Iron River West Iron County 6 – The Broncos (7-2) added another highlight to their best season since 2009 by handing West Iron (8-1) its first regular-season loss since Week 7 in 2012.

Bessemer 51, Ironwood 6 – The Miners (Bessemer’s nickname as part of its football co-op, Gogebic) won their sixth game to advance to the playoffs for the third straight season.

Iron Mountain 21, Norway 20 – The Mountaineers (6-3) are back in the playoffs after a one-year miss, but needed to edge a Norway (4-5) team that was playing for an at-large bid but still finished with its best record since 2010. 

Lower Up North

Cadillac 15, Traverse City Central 14

This is the way a league title should be decided – one-point game between first and second-place teams on the final night of the regular season. Never mind that Cadillac had already earned a share of the Big North Conference title and that Central ended up tied for second with Petoskey; Cadillac’s go-ahead score with 4.6 seconds to play makes this one of the most exciting finishes in Michigan so far this season. The score came after Central had forced Cadillac into a turnover on downs at the Trojans’ 4-yard line a minute and a half prior. A Central win would've made them co-champions. Click for more from the Cadillac News.

Also noted:

Boyne City 55, Grayling 36 – The Ramblers (9-0) celebrated not only their first perfect regular season since 2001, but also the end of a five-game losing streak to the Vikings (4-5).  

Johannesburg-Lewiston 42, Indian River Inland Lakes 6 – The South-winning Cardinals (8-1) can call themselves second-best in the Ski Valley Conference overall, having fallen to North champ St. Ignace in Week 5 before beating North runner-up Inland Lakes (7-2) impressively.

Onekama 40, Frankfort 22 – The Portagers (6-3) are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 with also their first winning record since that season; Frankfort (5-3) had previously qualified.

Traverse City West 35, Walled Lake Northern 14 – The Titans earned enough playoff points downing Northern (4-5) to earn an at-large postseason bid and extend its streak to three seasons despite opening this fall 1-3.  

Southwest and Border

Gobles 51, Saugatuck 49

This Southwestern Athletic Conference North finale had all kinds of implications. While Fennville cruised into a share of the league title with a 42-0 win over Bloomingdale (after beating Gobles 22-12 in Week 8 and despite losing the Saugatuck the week before that), a Saugatuck win in this one would have changed things substantially by giving the Indians (5-4) both a share of the league title and a playoff berth. Instead, Gobles (7-2) shared the championship with Fennville, and those two will continue into the postseason while Saugatuck will not despite notching an eighth-straight winning season. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Mendon 28, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 7 – The Hornets (8-1) beat six teams that finished the regular season .500 or better, including the Irish (5-4), who earned a playoff at-large bid.

Schoolcraft 28, Reed City 14 – Schoolcraft (6-3) closed the season on a 5-1 run to make the playoffs, but still needed to beat a co-league champion in Reed City (7-2) to guarantee a spot.

Berrien Springs 7, Dowagiac 0 – The Shamrocks (6-3) are back in the playoffs after a two-season hiatus also thanks to a 5-1 run to close the regular season and the first win over Dowagiac (3-6) of their recent three-game series.

Battle Creek Central 18, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 15 – The Bearcats (5-4) didn’t make the playoffs, but did guarantee their first winning season since 2008 and after winning a combined five games over the last five years. 


Lansing Catholic 27, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 21

The talk about rejuvenated Lansing Catholic (9-0) of late has focused on if the Cougars are set to take the step into MHSAA title contender status. This victory seems to indicate yes. St. Mary (8-1) also entered undefeated and led by a strong group of seniors who should make it a player again in Division 6. Lansing Catholic is looking good to make a similar run in Division 5 after surviving its only game closer than 24 points this season. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Okemos 20, East Lansing 13 – The Chieftains (6-3) secured their first playoff berth since 2011 after a 2-3 start, by riding in part their best defensive performance in a decade (16.7 ppg) despite facing five eventual playoff qualifiers.

Grand Ledge 41, Holt 7 – The Comets (6-3) are another bounce-back playoff team, in after a year off and despite a 1-2 start to this fall and having to face their biggest rival in the finale.

Eaton Rapids 35, Charlotte 6 – Despite new leagues for both this fall, they kept the series alive; Eaton Rapids (6-3) also kept alive a playoff streak after making the postseason for the first time a year ago.

Manchester 47, Union City 27 – This matchup of champions from the Cascades and Big 8 conferences saw Cascades winner Manchester (8-1) hand Union City its lone loss. 


Lawrence 40, Battle Creek St. Philip 19

Beating St. Philip (8-1) didn’t bump Lawrence (9-0) up enough to get it a home game if these two meet again in the Regional Final – but did push Lawrence past Portland St. Patrick so it will host the Shamrocks this week. The win also showed Lawrence is the team to beat from this quarter of the bracket, regardless of where the games are played. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

Rapid River 42, Bellaire 28 – The Rockets (9-0) tuned up for what they hope will be another playoff run with Bridge Football Alliance runner-up Cedarville to start October and third-place Bellaire (7-2) to finish it.

Webberville 44, Burr Oak 16 – This unofficial playoff game got Webberville (4-5) into the field in the 16th and final spot, while Burr Oak (4-5) ended up 17th in playoff point average and just outside.

PHOTO: Muskegon Mona Shores ran away in the third quarter Friday to defeat rival Muskegon for the first time since 1982 and claim its first league title since 1968. (Photo courtesy of Eric Sturr.)

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.)