A Game for Every Fan: Week 2

September 2, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Most of this week’s MHSAA varsity football games will again be played over both Thursday and Friday, similar to last week and this time in anticipation of travelers leaving town for an extended Labor Day break. In fact, nearly 80 percent of games will be played tonight. 

But unlike last week, there aren’t a ton of matchups that jump out and announce, “You can’t miss this.” And that’s where we come into the mix.

See below for some of the possible jewels from this weekend’s schedule, all to be played tonight unless noted. And remember to follow all of the results as they come in at the MHSAA Score Center.

Bay & Thumb

Freeland (1-0) at Chesaning (1-0)

It’s tough to believe once-powerful Chesaning hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007. But the Indians finished with a winning record last fall for the first time since that season, and debuted a snazzy synthetic turf field last week. Anticipation is high, and they now host Freeland, which is coming off a 10-2 finish in 2014 and beat Chesaning 42-0 a year ago.

Others that caught my eye: Frankenmuth (1-0) at Birch Run (0-1), Bad Axe (1-0) at Marlette (1-0), Richmond (1-0) at Yale (0-1), St. Clair (0-1) at Marine City (0-1).

Greater Detroit

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

This continues to be the most exciting rivalry in Macomb County after a third straight season of multiple matchups a year ago – the teams split, with Dakota winning in Week 2 by 21 points and the Big Reds claiming the District Final 28-27. The Cougars are coming off arguably the most notable victory of Week 1, a 35-10 defeat of reigning MHSAA Division 1 champion Clarkston. But Chippewa Valley downed generally-strong Lake Orion top open for the second season in a row and is plenty capable of making this the state’s best matchup of the week.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Country Day (1-0) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (1-0), Grosse Pointe South (1-0) at Romeo (1-0), Sterling Heights Stevenson (1-0) at Utica Eisenhower (1-0), Allen Park (1-0) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (1-0).


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

Mason’s experienced offense showed the difference a year can make by putting up 56 points in a win over Okemos last week after scoring only 14 against the Chieftains on opening night 2014. The Bulldogs went on last year to score a season-low 10 points in three games – including in a Week 2 10-7 win over Eaton Rapids. The Greyhounds are seeking to take the next step in their revival with a first win over Mason since 1993.

Others that caught my eye: Laingsburg (1-0) at Fowler (1-0), Sand Creek (1-0) at Stockbridge (1-0), Beal City (1-0) at Clare (0-1) (Fri.), Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (1-0) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (0-1) (Fri.).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Escanaba (1-0) at Petoskey (1-0)

The coach Dave Howes era at Escanaba began last week with a win over Alpena, which actually counts as the team’s third victory in four games going back to last fall. That’s something to build on for a program seeking its first winning season since 2011 and facing an opponent that has won 14 of its last 18 games. Petoskey could be a Big North Conference contender and would love to enter league play 2-0 for the third straight season.

Others that caught my eye: Boyne City (1-0) at Charlevoix (1-0), Gaylord (1-0) at Grayling (1-0), Whittemore-Prescott (0-1) at Oscoda (1-0), Traverse City St. Francis (1-0) at McBain (1-0).

Southeast & Border

Morenci (1-0) at Hudson (1-0)

Morenci burst back among this area’s elite last fall with its best finish (10-2) since 1996, and continued by beating another 2014 playoff team, Pittsford, 44-6 last week. The 21-16 victory over Hudson in Week 2 last season got momentum rolling in a big way for the Bulldogs and could do so again – but also was Hudson’s only regular-season loss, meaning the Tigers will be more than ready for the rematch.

Others that caught my eye: Portland (1-0) at Hillsdale (1-0), Concord (1-0) at Union City (1-0), Onsted (1-0) at Adrian Madison (1-0), Detroit Cesar Chavez (1-0) at Ida (1-0).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central (1-0) at Battle Creek Lakeview (1-0)

After facing each other in a 2013 District Final, these two Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference contenders didn’t get to play each other last fall because weather washed the Week 2 game out. Lakeview went on to win the SMAC East and Portage Central was second in the SMAC West, and this should again be a matchup of contenders in their respective divisions.

Others that caught my eye: Decatur (1-0) at Constantine (0-1), Vicksburg (1-0) at Edwardsburg (1-0), Paw Paw (1-0) at Plainwell (1-0), Richland Gull Lake (1-0) at St. Joseph (1-0).

Upper Peninsula

Calumet (1-0) at Negaunee (1-0)

These northern U.P. neighbors re-started their series three seasons ago, and two of the first three games have been decided by eight or fewer points – although Negaunee has won all three of their matchups. Last season’s 31-22 win was a big reason why the Miners were able to qualify for the playoffs at 5-4 – and also ended up the closest loss for the Copper Kings, who ended 7-4.

Others that caught my eye: L’Anse (1-0) at Iron River West Iron County (1-0), Traverse City Central (1-0) at Marquette (0-1) (Fri.), Bark River-Harris (1-0) at Gogebic (1-0) (Fri.), Hurley, Wis. (2-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-0) (Sat.).

West Michigan

Detroit Loyola (0-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (1-0), Friday

Oakridge loaded its schedule with two reigning MHSAA champions to start things off this fall and last week ended Division 8 champ Muskegon Catholic Central’s 26-game winning streak. Like MCC, Loyola – the reigning winner in Division 7 – graduated many of its top contributors from the last few seasons. But the Bulldogs looked capable again in falling to reigning Division 3 champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 24-12 in their opener.  

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids South Christian (0-1) at Caledonia (1-0), Ravenna (1-0) at Montague (1-0), Holt (0-1) at Rockford (0-1), Muskegon (0-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (1-0) (Fri.)


Engadine (1-0) at Powers North Central (1-0), Friday

North Central, home to the reigning Class D boys basketball champion as well, is new to 8-player this season and put up a basketball-like 82 points last week. The Jets are only two seasons removed from an 8-3 record in 11-player, but should get more of a test from Engadine, a playoff team in 8-player three of the last four seasons.

Others that caught my eye: Onaway (0-1) at Brimley (0-1), Tekonsha (1-0) at Webberville (1-0).

PHOTO: Beal City quarterback Tucker Gross prepares to receive the snap during Friday’s win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. 

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.)