Final-Seconds Field Goal Ends Defensive Stalemate, Delivers Gladwin's 1st Title

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 26, 2022

DETROIT – As Treyton Siegert warmed up with the kicking net on the Gladwin sideline late in the Division 5 Football Final on Saturday, he was kind of hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.

“I was just trying to focus on making good contact with the ball, and just hoping they would score a touchdown,” the junior kicker said. “I knew it would probably come to me.”

It did, and Siegert delivered with a 21-yard field goal from the right hash to give Gladwin a 10-7 win against Frankenmuth and its first MHSAA football title.

“It was a crazy moment,” Siegert said. “I never doubted it once we got up close enough, but it was just a crazy moment. I’m really speechless. It was awesome to have that feeling. … I wouldn’t have that opportunity without a team behind me. It was really a great moment.”

Siegert’s moment capped a defensive struggle between two unbeaten teams, each in search of a first Finals title. For Frankenmuth, it was the second trip to the Finals in three seasons. Gladwin, meanwhile, was making its first appearance in a Final, and it came just three seasons after the team went 1-8 to cap a four-year stretch during which it won seven games total.

The Flying Gs’ Lucas Mead (4) and Frankenmuth’s Will Soulliere (13) contend for a jump ball in the end zone.The 1-8 season was the first for coach Marc Jarstfer and his staff. Two players who were on the field Saturday – receiver/safety Kaden McDonald and running back/linebacker Logan Kokotovich – played on the 1-8 team as freshmen.

“The culture,” McDonald said of what changed. “The culture was a huge thing. And the brotherhood. We worked out all the time and got after it in the offseason.”

Gladwin needed every bit of that culture and brotherhood to overcome a Frankenmuth team that had been building the same thing for decades.

With the game tied at 7 midway through the fourth quarter, it was the Flying Gs who found just a little bit more. 

Senior quarterback Nick Wheeler connected with senior receiver Lucas Mead for a 43-yard gain down the sideline to put Gladwin at the Frankenmuth 28-yard line. Senior running back Earl Esiline then chipped away for 24 yards over the next five plays to set up Siegert’s game-winning field goal.

The junior soccer player left little doubt on it, too, smashing the kick through the middle of the uprights with two seconds remaining. That was only enough time for Frankenmuth to unsuccessfully attempt multiple laterals on the ensuing kickoff.

“I never doubted it for a second,” Jarstfer said of Siegert’s kick. “I was thinking of taking knees a little bit earlier to just ensure that we had that opportunity. Upstairs, on the phones, they were telling me to keep punching it and maybe we’ll break one through and we can seal the deal that way. I have a lot of trust and faith in him, and I’m glad he’s back for another year.”

The drive that set up the winning kick was a rare win for an offense in the game. It covered 74 yards, and Gladwin finished the game with 225 of total offense.

Frankenmuth, meanwhile, was held to 199 yards of offense, and 3.9 yards per play.

“Both defenses have been pretty sound all year,” Frankenmuth coach Phil Martin said. “I think both offenses probably left a little bit on the field that they would have liked to cash in on; I know we did. But again, I thought the kids played a whale of a smash-mouth football game. Small-town football in Division 5 is a lot of fun.”

Mead (4) wraps up Frankenmuth’s Hunter Bernthal (3).The first offensive breakthrough didn’t come until late in the third quarter, when Frankenmuth junior Griffin Barker scored on a 2-yard run. He was helped with a push from behind by senior Brenden Marker, who had started as his lead blocker. The Frankenmuth drive covered 90 yards, and featured a 56-yard pass from senior quarterback Aidan Hoard to junior receiver Hunter Bernthal.

Gladwin immediately responded, putting together a four-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard pass from Wheeler to McDonald.

The rare flash of offense wasn’t matched previously, nor after, until the game-winning drive.

Gladwin looked to have broken the deadlock on the first play of the second quarter, but a 55-yard touchdown run by Esiline was wiped off the board by an illegal formation penalty.

The Flying Gs did get into the red zone twice in the first half, but both trips came up empty. The first ended on downs at the Frankenmuth 16. The second ended with an incomplete pass on a fake field goal at the Frankenmuth 9.

“I just couldn’t be more thankful for the defense that I have on this team,” Hoard said. “They kept us in it the entire thing, and as the quarterback, seven points, that’s not really acceptable. We should have done a better job. The defense was what really kept us in it, and it was the main key of our team. That was our identity right there, a strong defensive team. All the way from the coaching staff to every player who played on the defensive side of the ball, I couldn’t be more proud of you guys.”

Hoard was 4 of 10 passing for 77 yards for the Eagles, while Barker led the rushing attack with 43 yards. Colin Main had nine tackles to lead Frankenmuth’s defense, while Dalton DeBeau added eight.

Wheeler had 123 yards on 7 of 15 passing, and Esiline led the Gladwin rushing attack with 67 yards. Mead had 81 yards on four catches. Esiline was the leading tackler for Gladwin with eight, while McDonald had seven.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Gladwin celebrates its first Finals championship Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) The Flying Gs’ Lucas Mead (4) and Frankenmuth’s Will Soulliere (13) contend for a jump ball in the end zone. (Below) Mead (4) wraps up Frankenmuth’s Hunter Bernthal (3). (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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

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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.)