A Game for Every Fan: Week 8

October 18, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Week 8 of the high school football season can mean a lot of things to teams and communities, depending on one’s circumstances.

On one side of the scale, those that have been eliminated from playoff contention are hoping to finish on a positive note and send out their seniors with one last memory. On the other, there are 61 undefeated teams left in Michigan – and 12 face off in six of our best games this week.

There’s definitely a challenge in forecasting which from this week’s slate might end up the most significant when all is said and done. In fact, a number of Detroit-area games not mentioned below are worth mentioning now: Detroit Martin Luther King (6-0) faces Detroit Mumford (6-1) and Detroit Cass Tech (7-0) faces Detroit East English (5-2) in Detroit Public School League semifinals, and Northville (6-1) faces Canton (7-0) with Grand Blanc (6-1) at Walled Lake Western (7-0) in Kensington Lakes Activities Association semis. In the Detroit Catholic League, second-placers Detroit Catholic Central (6-1) and Warren DeLaSalle (5-2) face off Saturday with a Prep Bowl berth on the line.

See below for more from an incredible statewide slate of games this weekend, and remember to check the MHSAA Score Center all weekend for updated scores and standings.

Southwest and Border

Portage Central (7-0) at St. Joseph (7-0)

Although St. Joseph still must face a competitive Mattawan squad in Week 9, the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West probably comes down to this matchup. Portage Central’s totals this fall certainly are more impressive – 326 points for and 83 against, while St. Joseph has outscored opponents only 201-103 – but because of its strong nonleague slate, St. Joseph projects to have the second-highest playoff point average in Division 3 (Portage Central currently falls sixth among teams expected to be in Division 2). 

Others that caught my eye: Battle Creek Harper Creek (6-1) at Battle Creek Lakeview (7-0), Decatur (5-2) at Watervliet (7-0), Dowagiac (6-1) at Edwardsburg (7-0), Otsego (5-2) at Paw Paw (7-0).

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (7-0) at Macomb Dakota (7-0)

Twitter followers of @DakotaFootball got a feel for this game Thursday from a few selected re-tweets from players, including one that read: “Tomorrow is the biggest game of our lives.” Dakota, during its nearly two-decade history, has lots of experience in these types of games – the winner tonight will claim the Macomb Area Conference Red title outright – and Chippewa Valley and Dakota have the second and third-highest playoff point averages, respectively, among teams expected to be in Division 1. This is the first time in a decade the Big Reds have been in this spot, and if they can crack Dakota’s defense (35 points allowed this fall), it could be another classic.

Others that caught my eye: St. Clair (7-0) at Marine City (7-0), Birmingham Groves (7-0) at Birmingham Seaholm (7-0), Lake Orion (6-1) at Clarkston (6-1), Warren Michigan Collegiate (5-2) at Harper Woods Chandler Park (6-1).

Lower Up North

Elk Rapids (5-2) at Boyne City (6-1)

Both co-leaders of the Lake Michigan Conference have tough matchups this week, but Elk Rapids being third in the league gives this game a potentially heavier impact. Boyne City faces Grayling in Week 9 in a game that should decide the league title – both are 4-0 in LMC play heading into this weekend – but Elk Rapids definitely could throw a wrench and did beat the Ramblers in two straight before falling last fall.

Others that caught my eye: Lake City (6-1) at Evart (6-1), West Branch Ogemaw Heights (5-2) at Traverse City Central (4-3), Sault Ste. Marie (4-3) at Kingsley (5-2), Grayling (6-1) at East Jordan (4-3).

Mid-Michigan

Lansing Sexton (7-0) at Lansing Everett (5-2)

Those who don’t follow Lansing-area football closely probably don’t realize that Sexton, with roughly 680 students, is slightly more than one-third the size of the biggest schools in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue – and pushed to rejoin the league with its traditional rivals after a few years playing in other divisions. That makes this Big Reds run even more impressive – although Everett would love to keep their rivals from celebrating a league title this week. The Vikings looked like favorites coming into the fall, and this one could be closer than some might expect.

Others that caught my eye: Portland (7-0) at DeWitt (7-0), Battle Creek St. Philip (7-0) at Portland St. Patrick (7-0), Constantine (5-2) at Olivet (6-1), Haslett (5-2) at Williamston (4-3).

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Christian (6-1) at Lowell (7-0)

Lowell’s wild October run through the rest of the O-K White contenders ends tonight in the likely league-deciding matchup against Grand Rapids Christian, which like the Red Arrows is 3-0 in the division. Lowell’s strong competition has paid off not just in preparation for games like this, but in helping the Red Arrows build the highest playoff point average in the MHSAA. Only Muskegon during Week 2 has tripped up the Eagles (Lowell beat Muskegon two weeks later), who continue to await the season debut of injured star receiver Drake Harris.

Others that caught my eye: Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (6-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (6-1), East Grand Rapids (4-3) at Caledonia (5-2), Muskegon Catholic Central (5-2) at Fruitport (5-2), Holland Christian (4-3) at Byron Center (5-2).

Bay and Thumb

Marlette (7-0) at Harbor Beach (6-1)

It’s fair to say this is turning into Marlette’s best season ever – or at least since the Red Raiders went 8-1 in 1975. And it would become infinitely sweeter if they are able to beat defending MHSAA Division 8 champion Harbor Beach to win the Greater Thumb Conference East title. Harbor Beach is riding a 15-game league winning streak and owns two straight wins over Marlette, including by a score of 66-10 a year ago. The Pirates’ only loss this season was in Week 3 to much larger Menominee.

Others that caught my eye: Fenton (7-0) at Swartz Creek (4-3), Richmond (6-1) at Yale (5-2), Deckerville (4-3) at Peck (7-0), Vassar (4-3) at Cass City (4-3).

Upper Peninsula

Bessemer (5-2) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-0)

This scenario bears similarity to 2012; Forest Park was cruising through the Great Western Conference before getting run over by Bessemer 46-15 in Week 8, a result that created an eventual three-team sharing of the league title. Forest Park is 3-0 in the league again. And while Bessemer at 2-2 in the conference has only an outside shot at sharing the title this time, the Miners have come back from a midseason two-game losing streak to get within a win of qualifying for the playoffs for the second season in a row.

Others that caught my eye: Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-3) at Felch North Dickinson (6-1), Marquette (5-1) at Negaunee (6-1), Bellaire (5-2) at Cedarville (6-1), Hancock (3-4) at Iron River West County (7-0).

PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central (in blue), here during a Sept. 27 loss to Birmingham Brother Rice, faces Warren DeLaSalle this week for the opportunity to face Brother Rice again in next weekend’s Detroit Catholic League Prep Bowl. (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.)