A Game for Every Fan: Week 6

October 1, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Week 6 annually is one of celebration and sadness for Michigan high school football teams.

A total of 66 can clinch automatic playoff berths with a victory this weekend, joining Ishpeming, which qualified by winning the fifth game of its eight-game schedule a week ago. Meanwhile, 122 teams are 2-3 and can't afford another loss as they attempt to win out and clinch an automatic berth.

See below for some of the most intriguing games from each region of the state, and as always, follow results as they come in on the MHSAA Score Center.

Bay & Thumb

Ithaca (5-0) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (5-0)

Ithaca’s regular-season challenges are generally few; the Yellowjackets haven’t lost a regular-season game since Week 8 of 2009. But Michigan Lutheran Seminary gave Ithaca an early challenge last fall on the way to playing in a Division 7 Semifinal and is especially strong on defense again – Ithaca is one of only three teams over the last two seasons to score more than 15 points on the Cardinals.

Others that caught my eye: Flint Beecher (4-1) at Lake Fenton (4-1), Sterling Heights (4-1) at Marine City (3-2), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-2) at Midland (5-0), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (3-2) at Unionville-Sebewaing (4-1).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Cass Tech (4-1) at Detroit East English (5-0)

The Technicians are looking to bounce back from their first regular-season loss since 2012, by three last week to Detroit Martin Luther King. East English is no doubt ready to extend Cass Tech's new streak to two. The Bulldogs, who fell to King in Week 3 by five points, lost to Cass Tech twice last season by a combined 12 points – and like Cass Tech have had little trouble this season aside from the Crusaders.  

Others that caught my eye: Walled Lake Northern (4-1) at Walled Lake Western (5-0), Allen Park (4-1) at Trenton (5-0), Northville (5-0) at Livonia Stevenson (5-0), Romeo (5-0) at Macomb Dakota (4-1).


DeWitt (5-0) at Haslett (3-2)

This grand rivalry hasn’t been as much with DeWitt winning the last 12 meetings including multiple during the playoffs. But despite the Panthers’ 39-0 victory a year ago, the 2015 version should be much closer. Rebuilt DeWitt has done well against a solid schedule, but Haslett hasn’t been far behind with losses the last two weeks by a combined seven points. The Vikings should slow the tempo enough to stay within striking distance.

Others that caught my eye: Brighton (5-0) at Hartland (3-2), Lansing Sexton (1-4) at Holt (3-2), Olivet (3-2) at Stockbridge (4-1), Eaton Rapids (2-3) at Portland (5-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Beal City (4-1) at McBain (4-1)

Beal City has owned the Highland Conference for most of the last four seasons with 21 straight wins dating to a 2011 loss – to McBain. The Ramblers are hoping to break that streak as they continue toward what should be their best finish since at least 2011 – they’ve already equaled last season’s win total and avenged two of its five losses.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City St. Francis (5-0) at Grayling (4-1), Boyne City (4-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (4-1), Lincoln Alcona (4-1) at Oscoda (4-1), Traverse City Central (5-0) at Petoskey (4-1).

Southeast & Border

Ann Arbor Pioneer (5-0) at Saline (5-0)

The last two meetings between these two haven’t been competitive, with Saline winning both by a combined score of 68-10. The Hornets haven’t given up a point in two weeks and can clinch a share of the Southeastern Conference Red title with a victory tonight. But this is Pioneer’s best team since 2012, when it split two games with Saline. The Pioneers have equaled last season’s five wins and come through in a pair of close games – good experience if this one goes to the wire as well.

Others that caught my eye: Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (4-1) at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (4-1), Ida (5-0) at Dundee (3-2), Homer (4-1) at Springport (3-2), Ypsilanti Lincoln (2-3) at Ypsilanti Community (2-3).

Southwest Corridor

Pittsford (4-1) at Climax-Scotts (5-0)

Climax-Scotts has won an incredible 42 straight games in the Southern Central Athletic Association, dating to a 2008 loss to Pittsford. The Wildcats are the team that most recently has come close to snapping that streak, in 2013, and fell to Climax-Scotts twice a year ago – but might be the only league team capable of slowing a Panthers attack averaging nearly 53 points per game.

Others that caught my eye: Jackson Lumen Christi (4-1) at Coldwater (5-0), Watervliet (4-1) at Constantine (3-2), Dowagiac (3-2) at Plainwell (3-2), Benton Harbor (3-2) at St. Joseph (4-1).

Upper Peninsula

Kingsford (3-2) at Marquette (2-3)

The Flivvers last week become one of the few of the past few seasons to come close to beating Menominee. But despite that three-point loss, Kingsford is driving toward a return to the playoffs after a season away and needs only one more win to equal last season’s total. Marquette has won two straight over the Flivvers, but this meeting is the most urgent of late because of an 0-3 start and tough games to finish against Negaunee and the Maroons.

Others that caught my eye: Escanaba (2-3) at Menominee (5-0), Hurley, Wis. (5-1) at Bark River-Harris (5-0), Iron River West Iron County (1-4) at Calumet (3-2), Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) at Gladstone (2-3).

West Michigan

Reed City (5-0) at Big Rapids (4-1)

Reed City gets overlooked a bit at the intersection between the Grand Rapids powers and the Big North Conference. But the Coyotes have won 36 of their last 37 games in the Central State Activities Association and can keep step with a sixth straight win over Big Rapids. That won't be as easy a task this fall, however; the Cardinals won four games total over 2013 and 2014, but are only a seven-point loss to Bay City John Glenn last week from perfection in 2015.

Others that caught my eye: East Grand Rapids (4-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-2), East Kentwood (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (3-2) at Muskegon Mona Shores (5-0), Zeeland East (3-2) at Muskegon (5-0).


Cedarville (4-1) at Posen (5-0)

Cedarville has lost only four games in five seasons of 8-player football, and to no one but rival Rapid River since 2011. But Posen could change things up in the Bridge Alliance Conference if it can continue a defensive performance rare for the 8-player game – the Vikings give up only 15 points per – and come back from the 52-0 loss to Cedarville on opening night a year ago.

Others that caught my eye: Deckerville (5-0) at Morrice (4-1), New Haven Merritt (4-1) at Owendale-Gagetown (5-0), Webberville (4-1) at Battle Creek St. Philip (5-0).

PHOTO: Ithaca’s Jake Smith tries to break the grasp of a Breckenridge tackler during a Week 4 win over the Huskies. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.) 

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.)