A Game for Every Fan: Week 2

September 5, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Week 2 of the MHSAA football season generally means the start of league play for schools across Michigan.

Five leagues were formed and nine reshuffled significantly for 2014 – so we’ll do our best to guide you through some of the new names and title chases as they unfold over the next two months.

Also new for this week’s look at the best games from every corner of the state – by request from one of our readers – a look at top 8-player games to be played (previously those were included in regional outlooks with the 11-player matchups.)

See below for the places to be this Friday and Saturday. All games are Friday unless noted. 

West Michigan

Zeeland West (1-0) at Zeeland East (0-1)

These rivals – literally neighbors on the same piece of property – continued an intriguing trend in 2013 when for the second straight season Zeeland East won the regular-season matchup and West then eliminated the Chix in the playoffs with a victory of 30-plus points. West went on last season to win the MHSAA Division 3 championship.

Others that caught my eye: Caledonia (1-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (0-1), Fruitport (0-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0), Montague (0-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (0-1), Grand Rapids Christian (1-0) at Muskegon (1-0).


Eaton Rapids (1-0) at Mason (0-1)

Eaton Rapids burst onto the scene in 2013, ending a streak of 19 losing seasons by making the playoffs for the first time and then winning a District championship as well. The positive vibes continued with a 34-14 win over Jackson Northwest last week, while Mason – an annual Lansing-area power with five playoff appearances in the last six seasons – fell to rival Okemos by two scores. The Bulldogs have won 20 straight over the Greyhounds, but this should be the best tilt between the two in some time.

Others that caught my eye: Holland West Ottawa (0-1) at Grand Ledge (1-0), Clare (0-1) at Beal City (1-0), Rockford (1-0) at Holt (0-1), Grandville (1-0) at Okemos (1-0).

Southwest and Border

Schoolcraft (1-0) at Constantine (1-0)

This is another pair with a history of multiple meetings in the same season. They are clear favorites in the Kalamazoo Valley Association again this fall – and also have faced each other in the playoffs four of the last eight seasons. Schoolcraft has won the last two regular-season meetings, including 37-28 in 2013. But Constantine has won all five times they’ve met in the postseason.  

Others that caught my eye: Decatur (1-0) at Fennville (1-0), Gobles (1-0) at Hartford (1-0), Battle Creek Lakeview (0-1) at Portage Central (1-0), St. Joseph (1-0) at Richland Gull Lake (1-0).

Upper Peninsula

Traverse City Central (1-0) at Escanaba (1-0) 

These two faced off the last two seasons, and it wasn’t really close – Central won by 44 and 21 points, respectively. Another victory would put the Trojans in nice position heading into Big North Conference play after missing the playoffs a year ago. But Escanaba also won last week and would love to take another step toward a first winning season since 2011, especially with 2013 playoff teams Cheboygan, Detroit Country Day and Sault Ste. Marie still coming up on the nonleague schedule.

Others that caught my eye: Negaunee (1-0) at Calumet (1-0), DeWitt (1-0) at Kingsford (1-0), Munising (0-1) at Powers North Central (1-0), Alpena (0-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (0-1).

Greater Detroit

Macomb Dakota (0-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (1-0)

These Macomb Area Conference Red rivals are front-loaded this fall with high-profile games – Dakota opened with a three-point loss to reigning MHSAA Division 1 champion Clarkston, while Chippewa Valley survived a three-point victory over perennial power Lake Orion. And the Big Reds definitely have been waiting for this one, having lost the league title by falling to Dakota 52-7 in Week 8 last season, and then seeing their season end against Dakota 34-14 in the District Final.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit U-D Jesuit (1-0) at Detroit Country Day (0-1), Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (1-0) at Oxford (1-0), Utica Eisenhower (0-1) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (1-0), Detroit Douglass (0-1) at Detroit Mumford (0-1).

Lower Up North

Grayling (1-0) at Gaylord (1-0)

These two, located a mere 27 miles apart on I-75, were regular opponents for decades – but this is their first matchup since 1996. Back then, Grayling was in the midst of a decade-long string of losing seasons; now they’ve had 11 straight above-.500 finishes. Gaylord had a nice run of success soon after these two suspended their series – but more recently won a combined four games over the last five seasons. The Blue Devils equaled last fall’s victory total last week by beating Cheboygan 40-0.

Others that caught my eye: Pickford (1-0) at Indian River Inland Lakes (1-0), Hudsonville (1-0) at Traverse City West (1-0), Oscoda (1-0) at Whittemore-Prescott (1-0), McBain (0-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (0-1) on Saturday.

Bay and Thumb

Marine City (1-0) at St. Clair (1-0)

These two decided the MAC Gold title in Week 8 last season – St. Clair winning 43-33 – but they face off in the league opener this time. St. Clair renewed a series with Croswell-Lexington last week for the first time since 1993 and won 26-21, while the reigning MHSAA Division 4 champ Mariners continued their high-scoring ways beating Algonac 49-28.

Others that caught my eye: Yale (1-0) at Richmond (1-0), Harbor Beach (1-0) at Vassar (1-0), Lansing Catholic (1-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (0-1), Ovid-Elsie (0-1) at Freeland (1-0).


Carsonville-Port Sanilac (0-1) vs. Lawrence (1-0), Saturday at Webberville

The inaugural MHSAA champion in 2012, Carsonville-Port Sanilac was an early standard-setter for the 8-player game – and Lawrence, a semifinalist last season, has helped raise the level of play since joining the scene a year ago. CPS is coming off an opening loss to Morrice, a program new to 8-player this fall.  

Others that caught my eye: Dryden (1-0) at Caseville (1-0), Burr Oak (1-0) at Waldron (1-0).

PHOTO: Bessemer’s Gogebic Miners opened this season with a 36-14 win over Hancock. (Photo courtesy of Norman Tesch/Wakefield.)

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.)