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).

Mid-Michigan

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.)

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

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

June 28: E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

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.)