The beginning of playoffs in any sport often is looked at as starting over or a second chance – especially by teams that maybe didn’t accomplish everything they’d wanted during the regular season.
A number of teams took advantage of those opportunities during the first weekend of these 2021 MHSAA Football Playoffs.
Of 144 games total, 38 were rematches from the regular season – and 18 were won by the other team this time, with a number of those highlighted in this week’s “review” below.
(And in case you’re wondering, the upcoming 11-Player District Finals and 8-Player Regional Finals feature 25 more rematches.)
11-Player Division 1
HEADLINER Dearborn Fordson 21, Detroit Cass Tech 14 (OT) Antonio Gates Jr. caught two touchdown passes including the eventual game winner in overtime as Fordson (8-2) moved on against a familiar playoff foe. Fordson had fallen to Cass Tech (6-4) in the playoffs the last two seasons and has faced the Technicians in the postseason eight straight years. Click for more from the Dearborn Press & Guide.
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 30, 2021
District Digest Howell 35, Hartland 28 (3 OT) The Highlanders (8-2) trailed Hartland 14-0 at halftime before coming back to avenge a Week 6 loss to the Eagles (7-3). Oxford 38, Clarkston 28 After losing to Clarkston 20-17 in Week 5 to cap a 1-4 start, the Wildcats (6-4) haven’t fallen again – with this win breaking a four-game losing streak against the Wolves (8-2). Belleville 14, Ann Arbor Huron 10 The Tigers (9-1) got their biggest scare since late September but held on to end Huron’s most successful season since 2001 at 8-2.
11-Player Division 2
HEADLINER Port Huron Northern 13, Port Huron 0 After falling to Port Huron High 14-7 just three weeks earlier, Northern (8-2) avenged with its third shutout of the season – highlighted by five tackles for loss, four sacks, two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt. The Huskies also broke a three-game losing streak against the Big Reds (6-4). Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.
District Digest Bay City Western 25, Midland Dow 23 The Warriors’ best season in a decade added another highlight, as Western (8-2) avenged its one-point Week 5 loss to the Chargers (6-4). Battle Creek Lakeview 49, Dexter 48 (OT) The Spartans (7-3) made it three straight seasons with a playoff win with a rain-soaked overtime extra point against the Dreadnaughts (5-5). Muskegon Mona Shores 31, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 7 The reigning champion’s potential all-road game march back to Ford Field began in a big way as Mona Shores (8-2) handed host Forest Hills Central (8-2) a playoff loss for the third time in four seasons.
11-Player Division 3
HEADLINER River Rouge 14, Harper Woods 6 (OT) The reigning Division 3 runners-up rallied after halftime with all of their points and a defensive stand, holding Harper Woods (7-3) to its fewest points this season. River Rouge (7-2) has won a playoff game eight of the last 10 years.
Jalen Holly would get the touchdown and 2-point conversion in OT as River Rouge held on to beat Harper Woods 14-6 in the Division 3 District Semifinal. @RougeFootball @CoachCParker @Jholly131#StateChamps X #MIArmyGuard pic.twitter.com/ujKInHcLE4
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 30, 2021
District Digest Allen Park 28, Riverview 20 The Jaguars (8-2) ended Riverview’s season for the third time in four years, this time with the Pirates (9-1) suffering their only defeat in the playoffs for the second straight. St. Joseph 29, Zeeland West 26 The Bears (6-4) bounced back from four straight losses – including three by six points or fewer – to end up on the positive side of a close one against the Dux (6-3). Mount Pleasant 37, Marquette 6 The Oilers (10-0) won this matchup of league champions to reach double-digit wins for the second time in four seasons, ending Marquette’s at 7-3.
11-Player Division 4
HEADLINER Cadillac 42, Fruitport 35 Cadillac’s outstanding defense received one of its toughest challenges as Fruitport rallied late to pull within a score before the reigning Division 4 runner-up held on for the win. Cadillac (8-2) scored its most points in a game this season, but Fruitport (4-6) also scored the most the Vikings have allowed – with both offenses perhaps benefitting from a second look as Cadillac had won their Week 2 meeting 28-12. Click for more from the Cadillac News.
District Digest Three Rivers 9, Vicksburg 7 In avenging a 46-27 Week 6 loss to Vicksburg (8-2), Three Rivers (6-4) also won a playoff game for the first time since 2017. Croswell-Lexington 6, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 0 The Pioneers (9-1) scored the game’s lone points in the first quarter and held on for a second-straight shutout and fourth this season, against a Notre Dame Prep team (7-3) that averaged 37 points per game entering the weekend. Livonia Clarenceville 36, Madison Heights Lamphere 28 The Trojans (9-1), playing as independents this fall, are enjoying their best season since 2013 with just a three-point Week 7 loss to Berkley from being undefeated and Lamphere (7-3) the second league champ they’ve defeated.
11-Player Division 5
HEADLINER Clare 32, Gladwin 12 It’s a rare season when Clare is left out of the Jack Pine Conference title, but the second-place Pioneers made some major amends by handing the champion Flying G’s (9-1) their lone loss to end their season. Gladwin had won the first meeting 48-42 in Week 7. Al Warner scored all five of Clare’s touchdowns, including with runs of 50 and 79 yards. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
District Digest Olivet 3, Williamston 0 (OT) Tyler Latunski’s 22-yard field goal was the difference in this matchup of league champions, after Olivet (8-2) had also edged Williamston (6-4) 20-19 in Week 8. Grand Rapids West Catholic 42, Comstock Park 0 The Falcons reached 40 points for the seventh time this season in moving to 9-1 overall, while shutting down a Comstock Park offense that had averaged nearly 51 points per game during that team’s 9-0 regular season. Dundee 6, Macomb Lutheran North 0 The Vikings (6-4) earned their first District Final berth since 2011, against a Mustangs team (6-4) that shared a league title.
11-Player Division 6
HEADLINER Michigan Center 8, Jonesville 6 A scoreless game through three quarters played out dramatically in the fourth as Michigan Center (9-1) put the first points on the board and kept Jonesville from tying after its lone touchdown. The Cardinals then made a near-goal line stand to close out a second playoff win over the Comets (9-1) in as many seasons. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.
District Digest Calumet 35, Menominee 20 The Copper Kings (8-2) also won a matchup of league champions, defeating Menominee (5-5) in the playoffs for the third straight season. Boyne City 19, Grayling 18 The Ramblers (9-1) stopped a two-point conversion try late, avenging last season’s District Final loss to the Vikings (7-3). Detroit Southeastern 16, Detroit Pershing 0 The Jungaleers (7-3) have won seven straight, with this shutout of Pershing (5-5) their second on the field this season and part of a defensive effort that’s given up only 9.5 points per game over its last six played (with two wins coming by forfeit).
11-Player Division 7
HEADLINER New Lothrop 34, Montrose 7 The reigning Division 7 champion Hornets (7-3) opened with a decisive win over one of the other two co-champions in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference, avenging a 35-14 Week 5 loss to the Rams (7-3). New Lothrop and Montrose also had entered the playoffs tied for the No. 10 spot in Division 7. Click for more from the Owosso Argus-Press.
New Lothrop sophomore QB Jack Kulhanek was doing it all for the Hornets. Here, he scores 2 TDs and drops a dime inside the 5 to Garett Mangino, setting up another score in NLs 34-7 win over Montrose @GarettMangino @JackKulhanek @NLAPS @CoachGalvas #StateChamps x @MHSAA pic.twitter.com/qg5h4eopv9
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 30, 2021
District Digest Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 49, Reese 6 After falling to Reese 27-18 in Week 7, Laker (8-2) found what worked in the rematch and remains the only one of three Greater Thumb Conference West co-champions still standing. The Rockets (8-2) had averaged nearly 32 points per game entering the weekend. Ishpeming Westwood 44, East Jordan 6 The Patriots (9-1) held an eighth opponent this season to single digits in winning a matchup of league champions over the Red Devils (6-3). Hemlock 20, Bad Axe 12 The Huskies (6-4) have emerged from a 2-3 start to win three of their last four, including this one over that third GTC West co-champion. Bad Axe still has plenty to celebrate; in addition to the league title, the Hatchets (7-3) posted their highest win total since 2001.
11-Player Division 8
HEADLINER Addison 24, Centreville 16 Given these teams’ defensive prowess, this score makes sense – and this win may soon be recalled among the Panthers’ best at least since the turn of the century. Not only was Centreville the reigning Division 8 champion, but Addison (9-1) reached its highest win total since 2006 in tying the most points the Bulldogs (7-3) had given up over the last three seasons. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
District Digest Muskegon Heights Academy 66, Holton 42 The Tigers (6-4), who didn’t play last season and won just one game over the previous two, earned their first playoff victory since 2010. Fowler 28, Flint Beecher 0 The Eagles (7-3) went on the road and came back with their third shutout in five games. Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest 13, Marine City Cardinal Mooney 12 The last month has seen an incredible turnaround for Lutheran Northwest, which went 0-7 a year ago and opened this season 1-4 before winning five straight including this one with a touchdown on the last play of the game. Mooney had won their Week 2 matchup 31-7.
8-Player Division 1
HEADLINER Britton Deerfield 36, Deckerville 14 Despite losing its starting quarterback to injury at the end of the regular season, Deerfield (9-1) rallied for the most impressive win so far of its 8-player debut. A defense that has shined all fall continued to do so as well – Deckerville (8-2) hadn’t been held to 14 or fewer points in a game since 2018. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
Regional Roundup Rudyard 38, Munising 14 After finishing as one of three runners-up in the Great Lakes Eight Conference East, Rudyard (8-2) topped the champion, avenging a 30-12 Week 4 loss to the Mustangs (7-3). Indian River Inland Lakes 38, Rogers City 24 The Bulldogs (10-0) faced one of their toughest matchups of the season, but emerged to earn a showdown this week with also 10-0 Suttons Bay. Martin 41, Tekonsha 0 This win over another league champion was Martin’s third-straight shutout and pushed the Clippers to 10-0.
8-Player Division 2
HEADLINER Colon 35, Portland St. Patrick 13 The Magi (9-1) will move on this time after falling to Portland St. Patrick in last year’s Regional Final and watching the Shamrocks finish Division 2 runners-up for the second-straight season. Colon held St. Patrick (9-1) to its fewest points in a game since 2018, sticking almost exactly to the 11.2 it’s giving up this fall. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.
Regional Roundup Crystal Falls Forest Park 8, Lake Linden-Hubbell 0 The Trojans (8-2) won for the first time in three weeks by avenging their first loss of the season, to the Lakes (7-3), and to earn a rematch with the team that dealt Forest Park its other defeat (Powers North Central). Hillman 32, Mio 26 The Tigers’ 1-3 start is becoming a distant memory as they’ve won six straight with this one avenging a Week 2 12-0 defeat to the Thunderbolts (6-4). Kinde North Huron 48, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 21 Just as we saw a number of teams avenge in rematches over the weekend, North Huron (10-0) instead was able to hold off the Irish for the second time. Sacred Heart (7-3) had finished second to the Warriors in the North Central Thumb League Stars.
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PHOTOS (1) Westwood's Zach Carlson  gets around East Jordan's Granger Kitson  and down to the 1-yard-line before getting tackled. (2) Harper Woods and River Rouge players prepare for contact Friday. (3) A Mount Pleasant defender attempts to wrap up a Marquette ball carrier. (4) A Grand Rapids South Christian ball carrier eludes a pair of Plainwell defenders. (5) Gladstone quarterback Nate Young  holds onto the ball before getting tackled by Negaunee's Eli VanBuren , Jed Anderson  and another defender. (6) Beal City defenders pull down a Bark River-Harris ball carrier in their Division 8 matchup. (Photos by Cara Kamps (1 and 5), Quintin Love Jr. (2), High School Sports Scene (3 and 6) and Gary Shook (4).
LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.
“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.
“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”
Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.
“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.
Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.
As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.
He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.
“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.
Guillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.
“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.
Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.
At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.
“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”
Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.
In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.
Gribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.
“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”
Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.
“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”
In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.
“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.
“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”
Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.
“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”
Big shoes to fill
As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.
Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.
Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.
Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.
“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.
As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”
His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.
He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.
“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”
Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.
“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.
“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”
Pam 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)