A Game for Every Fan: Week 5

September 26, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Rivalry games develop for a variety of reasons: proximity, a history of close finishes and league ties are just the obvious. And finding one of these matchups worth watching is an easy task just about every week of MHSAA football season..

But tonight and Saturrday might feature the best set of rivalry games, collectively, this state has seen during one weekend in a long time. 

All featured below are tonight unless noted. Be sure to monitor all the scores as they come in at the MHSAA Score Center.

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Birmingham Brother Rice (4-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (4-0) - Saturday

Although DCC hasn’t played a Catholic League Central game yet (it was the odd team out during last week’s openers), the Shamrocks and Warriors are the only teams in the division still undefeated overall. Both are playing for their third trips to the MHSAA Finals – Brother Rice has won back-to-back Division 2 titles, and DCC has finished runner-up the last two seasons in Division 1. But first comes this weekend; they’ve split the last four meetings, and DCC’s defense already has three shutouts this fall. 

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Loyola (4-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (4-0), Farmington Hills Harrison (4-0) at Southfield (3-1), Melvindale (4-0) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (4-0), Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (4-0) at Clarkston (3-1).

Southwest and Border

Portage Northern (3-1) at Portage Central (4-0)

Portage Northern is coming off a heart-breaking 17-10 loss last week to St. Joseph. But the Huskies surely will bounce back quickly for this rivalry game – especially after falling to Central in last season’s playoff opener after beating the Mustangs by 29 just two weeks before. Central got its first challenge of the season last week as well, from Stevensville Lakeshore, but hasn’t scored fewer than 34 points in a game so far.

Others that caught my eye: Decatur (4-0) at Lawton (4-0), Edwardsburg (4-0) at Three Rivers (3-1), Hartford (3-1) at Watervliet (4-0), Portland St. Patrick (4-0) at Burr Oak (3-1).

Upper Peninsula

Kingsford (4-0) at Menominee (4-0)

A year ago in Week 5, Kingsford beat Menominee 14-13 and then went on to win the Great Northern UP Conference title. But that’s been the norm; beginning in 1999, one of these two has won or shared the league title every season. This matchup often during that run decided which finished on top. The Maroons might have a little momentum after coming back to beat Kingsford 48-14 in a 2012 District Final.

Others that caught my eye: Negaunee (4-0) at Gwinn (2-2), Bessemer (3-1) at Hurley, Wis. (3-1), St. Ignace (3-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-2), Detroit Country Day (1-3) at Escanaba (1-3).

Lower Up North

Maple City Glen Lake (4-0) at Kingsley (3-1)

Glen Lake jumped into the Northwest Conference title conversation last season for the first time in a decade and earned the championship thanks in large part to a 29-7 win over Kingsley – which similarly was enjoying its finest conference run since 2005 before finishing second. The Stags no doubt would like to finish the job by winning this rematch to move into first place alone; they then finish with winless league opponents Benzie Central and Mesick.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City St. Francis (3-1) at Boyne City (3-1), Petoskey (2-2) at Cheboygan (3-1), Bellaire (4-0) at Posen (2-2), West Branch Ogemaw Heights (3-1) at Cadillac (4-0).

West Michigan

East Grand Rapids (3-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-1)

Grand Rapids Christian enjoyed its best season ever last fall, winning the Division 3 championship, which coincided with East Grand Rapids’ first playoff miss since 2000. But the Pioneers are looking like themselves again, and the Eagles remain elite despite graduating a star-filled class and losing standout receiver Drake Harris for the first part of the regular season with an injury. Three of these teams' last five games against each other have come down to seven points or fewer, and this could be another classic.

Others that caught my eye: Belding (4-0) at Comstock Park (4-0), Ludington (3-1) at Fruitport (2-2), Rockford (3-1) at Holland West Ottawa (3-1), Muskegon (3-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (4-0).


DeWitt (4-0) at Haslett (3-1)

This once was the best rivalry in the Lansing area – until DeWitt won 10 straight (including three times in the playoffs), dating to Haslett’s last win in the series in 2005. Regardless, the Vikings have come closer than most to beating the Panthers during this latest run. And last season’s game seemed to signal a return to the grudge match, with DeWitt surviving 28-27. The Panthers are always strong offensively but have given up only 23 points this fall and have two shutouts. Haslett, meanwhile, is off to its best start since 2009.

Others that caught my eye: Holt (2-2) at East Lansing (3-1), Reading (2-2) at Homer (4-0), Coleman (4-0) at Carson City-Crystal (4-0), Jackson Northwest (2-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (4-0).

Bay and Thumb

Midland (4-0) at Mount Pleasant (3-1)

With three wins – and only a 12-point loss to a strong DeWitt team – Mount Pleasant already has one more victory than all of last season, a rare down finish for the Oilers. Midland took advantage by breaking a three-season losing streak to Mount Pleasant and winning the Saginaw Valley Association North. As we reach the midpoint, these two have been the league’s most impressive teams so far.

Others that caught my eye: Harbor Beach (3-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port (4-0), Flint Beecher (4-0) at Lake Fenton (3-1), Warren Woods Tower (3-1) at St. Clair (4-0), Yale (3-1) at Almont (3-1).

PHOTO: Midland (blue uniforms) ran past Saginaw Arthur Hill last week to remain in first place in the SVA North. (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.)