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

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)

Inspired by Dad's Memory, Lawrence's Vasquez Emerges After Family Losses

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)