A Game for Every Fan: Week 4

September 20, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Welcome to fall, Michigan. Be sure to bring a coat and umbrella when you venture out to watch your favorite football team this weekend.

And what better way to spend a fall evening than watching one of the many 3-0 vs. 3-0 matchups dotting our state as we head into the meat of many league schedules.

See below for what should be some of the best games this weekend, and be sure to monitor all the scores at the MHSAA Score Center.

West Michigan

Muskegon (3-0) at Lowell (3-0)

For the second straight week, Muskegon finds itself in the most anticipated game statewide. Seven days ago the Big Reds responded with a 45-0 victory over Rockford. Tonight they’ll try to make it three straight against Lowell after beating the Red Arrows by 15 during the regular season and then 15-13 in a District Final in 2012. Lowell has been similarly dominant this fall, but Muskegon surely will be its toughest test so far.

Others that caught my eye: Comstock Park (3-0) at Allendale (3-0), Caledonia (2-1) at Grandville (2-1), Hartford (3-0) at Saugatuck (2-1), Shelby (3-0) at Montague (2-1).

Southwest and Border

Portage Northern (3-0) at St. Joseph (3-0)

St. Joseph had similar aspirations a year ago after a 3-0 start – then fell 7-0 to Portage Northern in Week 4 and missed the playoffs with a final 5-4 record. This season’s run has included more impressive victories over Battle Creek Harper Creek and Stevensville Lakeshore, and vengeance no doubt is on the Bears’ minds.

Others that caught my eye: Decatur (3-0) at Gobles (1-2), Stevensville Lakeshore (2-1) at Portage Central (3-0), Quincy (2-1) at Jonesville (3-0), Otsego (2-1) at Plainwell (3-0).

Bay and Thumb

Saginaw Arthur Hill (3-0) at Midland (3-0)

The most impressive part of Arthur Hill’s start is that it includes wins over 2012 playoff teams Goodrich and Bay City Western – on top of the fact the Lumberjacks went 0-9, 3-6, 1-8 and 1-8, respectively, since their last playoff appearance in 2008. This game will be the true measuring stick as Midland has been the class of the Saginaw Valley Association with 15 straight league wins and the North division championship last season.

Others that caught my eye: Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (3-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (2-1), Lawrence (2-0) at Peck (3-0), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port (3-0) at Unionville-Sebewaing (3-0), Almont (3-0) at Richmond (2-1).

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Southfield (2-1) at Oak Park (3-0)

Little has slowed Oak Park over the last two seasons, and wins already this fall over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Rochester Adams are proof the Knights will be back in the mix in the Oakland Activities Association White. Southfield should be too – and would love to get a strong start to a string that follows with Farmington Hills Harrison, Oxford and Adams.

Others that caught my eye: Saline (3-0) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (2-1), Orchard Lake St. Mary's (2-1) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (3-0), Grosse Ile (3-0) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (3-0), Warren DeLaSalle (2-1) at Birmingham Brother Rice (3-0).


DeWitt (3-0) at Ionia (3-0)

This might not seem like much of a game considering the teams’ recent histories – but don’t expect the Panthers to overlook the rejuvenated Bulldogs, who have equaled their most wins in a season since 2006, the last they qualified for the playoffs. Ionia already has scored 125 points after totaling just 200 a year ago, and the defense has been pretty solid as well.

Others that caught my eye: Fowler (2-1) at Bath (2-1), Grand Blanc (2-1) at Brighton (2-1), Holt (1-2) at Lansing Everett (3-0), Carson City-Crystal (3-0) at Vestaburg (3-0).

Lower Up North

Grayling (3-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (2-1)

This arguably (but with little argument) was the best rivalry in the Lake Michigan Conference – although Grayling’s first win in their 10 games against each other didn’t come until last season after the Gladiators had left the conference for football. St. Francis can break the Vikings’ 12-game regular-season winning streak, dating to the Gladiators’ 20-19 win over Grayling in Week 9 of 2011.

Others that caught my eye: Elk Rapids (2-1) at Charlevoix (1-2), Whittemore-Prescott (3-0) at Standish-Sterling (3-0), Petoskey (2-1) at Traverse City West (2-1), Rogers City (2-1) at Hillman (2-1).

Upper Peninsula

Marquette (3-0) at Escanaba (0-3)

Escanaba obviously is off to a rough start, and Marquette has opened with three wins over 2012 playoff teams. But an intriguing side note to this game, in addition to being a Great Northern Conference opener, is one of the coaches on the Marquette sideline – Dan Flynn, formerly Escanaba’s coach from 1985-2011, is in his first season as an assistant with the Redmen. They’re looking to beat the Eskymos for the first time since 2010.

Others that caught my eye: Ishpeming Westwood (0-3) at Ishpeming (3-0), Iron Mountain (1-2) at Negaunee (3-0), Bessemer (3-0) at Lake Linden Hubbell (1-2), Stephenson (2-1) at Felch North Dickinson (3-0).

PHOTO: Saginaw Arthur Hill (in blue) defeated Goodrich on opening night and is in pursuit of its first 4-0 start since 2008. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)