A Game for Every Fan: Week 4

September 17, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

By a quick count, there are 11 matchups statewide this week of MHSAA football teams entering with 3-0 records.

That means that at most only 119 teams will be undefeated after this week – and looking at the rest of the schedule, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the total after Saturday was much lower.

Read on for some of the best games to watch no matter where you live in Michigan or traveling to this weekend. And, as always, tune in to our Score Center on Friday for scores as soon as we receive them – usually all statewide by 11 p.m. – plus updated standings and the only place you’ll find updated playoff point averages throughout the weekend.  

Bay & Thumb

Goodrich (2-1) at Flint Beecher (3-0)

Beecher has rolled to another impressive start, building on last season’s 9-0 regular-season finish with shutouts the last two weeks. Genesee Area Conference Red rival Goodrich was one of only two teams to come within 20 of the Buccaneers during that run last season – and is seeking its first win in this series since 2012. The Martians’ loss this season was by a point on opening night to still-undefeated Ortonville Brandon.

Others that caught my eye: Fenton (2-1) at Ortonville Brandon (3-0), Millington (2-1) at Birch Run (1-2), Yale (1-2) at Croswell-Lexington (2-1), Davison (2-1) at Flint Powers Catholic (2-1).

Greater Detroit

St. Clair Shores South Lake (3-0) at Clinton Township Clintondale (3-0)

The Macomb Area Conference Silver is one of the most competitive conferences rarely brought up west of Detroit, and Clintondale’s reputation is along that same line although it's reclaiming a place on the radar – the Dragons won 20 straight regular-season games from 2011-14 before finishing last fall a disappointing 4-5. But they’ve bounced back with two shutouts this fall – although South Lake, which already has surpassed last season’s win total, is averaging 31 points per game and likely won’t be the next to put up a zero.

Others that caught my eye: Warren DeLaSalle (2-1) at Birmingham Brother Rice (1-2), Orchard Lake St. Mary's (3-0) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (3-0), Livonia Churchill (2-1) at Plymouth (2-1), Waterford Our Lady (3-0) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (2-1).


Portland (3-0) at Lansing Catholic (3-0)

Recent elite-level success and star power gives this matchup the edge over four other meetings of undefeated teams in this region. Portland was the Division 5 champion in 2012 and Lansing Catholic was runner-up in 2014. The Raiders own a 6-4 edge in their 10 recent meetings, but fell 34-6 last year to a Cougars team again led this fall by quarterback Tony Poljan. Portland hopes a defense giving up just under 12 points per game can contain the University of Minnesota prospect.

Others that caught my eye: Midland (3-0) at Mount Pleasant (3-0), Grand Blanc (3-0) at Brighton (3-0), Pewamo-Westphalia (3-0) at Dansville (3-0), Lake Odessa Lakewood (3-0) at Stockbridge (3-0).

Lower Northern Peninsula

Whitehall (3-0) at Traverse City Central (3-0)

An overtime win over Traverse City West last week put Central at 3-0 for the second straight season but with an undefeated opponent making the trip up north this week. This could come down to Whitehall’s defense stopping the Trojans, who have scored 130 points but against opponents that are a combined 0-9. Whitehall has given up only 27 points so far but against opponents half the size or smaller in comparison to Central.

Others that caught my eye: Kingsley (2-1) at Boyne City (3-0), Grayling (2-1) at Charlevoix (2-1), Rogers City (2-1) at Hillman (2-1), Petoskey (2-1) at Traverse City West (0-3).

Southeast & Border

Detroit Loyola (2-1) at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (3-0)

Gabriel Richard is off to a 3-0 start for the fourth straight season, but this time outscoring its first opponents by a combined 143-6. The Fighting Irish can make that run look even better by continuing against Loyola, the defending MHSAA champion in Division 7. The Bulldogs’ 12-point loss to reigning Division 3 champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s during opening weekend was its first defeat during the regular season since 2010, and they bounced back with impressive wins over Muskegon-area powers Oakridge and Ravenna.

Others that caught my eye: Hudson (2-1) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (3-0), Grass Lake (2-1) at Manchester (2-1), Ann Arbor Skyline (2-1) at Monroe (2-1), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (3-0) at New Boston Huron (2-1).

Southwest Corridor

Benton Harbor (2-1) at Portage Central (3-0)

Portage Central continues to rank among the class of the southwest, with last week’s one-point win over rival Stevensville Lakeshore a great start to the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West schedule. Rival Portage Northern and St. Joseph are major obstacles in the league as well – and Benton Harbor suddenly can’t be overlooked with this season’s wins its first since 2012 and already its most for an entire season since 2006. The Tigers are a seven-point opening loss to Richland Gull Lake from entering this weekend undefeated.  

Others that caught my eye: Cassopolis (3-0) at Berrien Springs (3-0), Stevensville Lakeshore (2-1) at St. Joseph (3-0), Edwardsburg (3-0) at Paw Paw (2-1), Kalamazoo Central (1-2) at Battle Creek Central (1-2).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming Westwood (2-1) at Ishpeming (3-0)

The story hasn’t changed much in a year – Westwood is still seeking its first win over the neighborhood rival since 1998. Ishpeming won during the regular season and in the playoff opener last year and hasn’t loss a regular-season game to anyone since 2012. But Westwood, coming off its first playoff berth in three seasons, looks even more impressive at this point than when it entered 3-0 a year ago; the Patriots last week handed a solid L’Anse team its first loss and fell only on opening night to a Wisconsin team now 3-1.

Others that caught my eye: Indian River Inland Lakes (3-0) at St. Ignace (3-0), Marquette (0-3) at Escanaba (2-1), Iron Mountain (2-1) at Negaunee (3-0), Munising (3-0) at Newberry (2-1).

West Michigan

Muskegon (2-1) at East Grand Rapids (3-0)

The Pioneers are off to their best start since 2010 and own impressive wins over Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Caledonia – but with the Big Reds this week plus Grand Rapids Christian and Lowell among the scariest teams left on the schedule. Muskegon dealt first losses to Christian and Grandville the last two weeks after opening with a loss to Detroit Catholic Central, and had one of its best defensive games of last year’s Division 3 Final run against EGR, winning 37-7.

Others that caught my eye: Muskegon Mona Shores (3-0) at Caledonia (2-1), Zeeland East (3-0) at Grand Rapids Christian (2-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (1-2) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (3-0), Comstock Park (3-0) at Zeeland West (3-0).


Posen (3-0) at Bellaire (2-1)

Before this season, Posen had scored 60 or more points three times in five seasons of 8-player football. The Vikings have scored 60 or more every week this fall for their best start since 2010; they likely will need to score at least half that many against a Bellaire team that won this matchup 49-0 a year ago. The Eagles fell to upstart Powers North Central last week but remain a consistent 8-player power and a great test as Posen looks to take a step up.

Others that caught my eye: Deckerville (3-0) at Kingston (2-1), Tekonsha (1-2) at Portland St. Patrick (2-1)

PHOTO: Portland’s defense, here against Ovid-Elsie on opening night, will be charged with shutting down a potent Lansing Catholic offense this week. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.)