Every week of the football regular season we learn something more about who we might be watching when playoffs roll around in November.
And we should know quite a bit once we’ve reached the end of Week 3 this weekend.
League play will have begun in almost every conference across the state, and with some particularly intriguing matchups of possible state contenders today and Saturday – a few of which we detail below.
Once again, more than 150 games will be viewable live on MHSAA.tv, with Bally Sports Detroit broadcasting Friday's Detroit Cass Tech/Detroit Martin Luther King matchup on its PLUS cable channel and State Champs! Sports Network streaming live Saturday's Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood/Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes matchup. See the full schedule from the MHSAA Score Center.
Bay & Thumb
Grand Blanc (2-0) at Midland Dow (2-0)
Add next week’s Davison game as well, and only a few statewide can match the strength of Grand Blanc’s opening schedule, which has included wins over East Lansing and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central so far. Last season’s game against Dow wasn’t played because of the late start to the regular season, but the two previous matchups were both Grand Blanc wins – but decided by a combined five points. Dow followed an impressive opening win over Fenton with a shutout of Flint Carman-Ainsworth last week, and moving to 3-0 against the Division 1 Bobcats would be put the Chargers firmly on the Division 2 radar.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Harrison (2-0) at Gladwin (2-0), Millington (2-0) at Hemlock (1-1), Ortonville Brandon (2-0) at Lake Fenton (2-0), Fraser (2-0) at Port Huron Northern (2-0).
Detroit Cass Tech (2-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (1-1)
Simply put, this could end up as the premier game statewide this regular season. Both went to Muskegon County last weekend and came back with big wins over annual title contenders, King 40-19 over two-time reigning Division 2 champion Muskegon Mona Shores and Cass Tech 49-14 over a Muskegon program coming off its fifth straight Semifinals appearance with four consecutive Finals also during that run. High-profile talent will be everywhere, but of course many eyes will be on the quarterbacks – King’s Dante Moore and Cass Tech’s Leeshaun Mumpfield have been making plenty of headlines already. The Technicians won both meetings last season as the teams have taken turns defeating (or on those few occasions with multiple matchups sweeping) their top rival over the last seven seasons.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Belleville (2-0) at Livonia Churchill (2-0), Romeo (2-0) at Macomb Dakota (1-1), Harper Woods (2-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (2-0), Detroit Loyola (2-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (2-0).
East Lansing (1-1) at DeWitt (1-1)
This has been viewed as the premier matchup in the Lansing area going back a few seasons – although they didn’t play each other last year because of the late start – and East Lansing in Division 2 and DeWitt as reigning champion in Division 3 both have major postseason aspirations again. But first things first, and the winner tonight will take a notable step forward in what’s shaping up to be the strongest Capital Area Activities Conference Blue in a while. The Trojans lost by six in their high-scoring opener to Grand Blanc (see above) and followed with a 33-7 win last week over a Fenton team that lost only once in 2020. The Panthers are coming off a 20-17 last-minute loss at Portland – but DeWitt’s offense is capable of supercharging again like when it scored 47 against Traverse City Central in Week 1.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hartland (2-0) at Brighton (1-1), Northville (1-1) at Howell (2-0), Williamston (1-1) at Mason (1-1), Battle Creek Central (1-1) at Lansing Everett (2-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City West (2-0) at Cadillac (2-0)
West vs. Traverse City Central has long been viewed as “The Game” in the Big North Conference, but Cadillac reaching last season’s Division 4 Final has certainly added an argument or two – and it will only get stronger if the Vikings can defeat the Titans tonight for the first time since 2014. Both opened with notable victories – Cadillac over Reed City and West over Midland – and followed up with good wins in Week 2. West surely won’t be looking past this week even with its annual rivalry matchup with Central coming up next, while Cadillac’s meeting with Central isn’t until Week 6. But the winner tonight will have some serious work already accomplished in the league title race when it meets the reigning champ Trojans.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (1-1) at Boyne City (2-0), Mancelona (2-0) at Elk Rapids (1-1), Lake City (2-0) at Manton (2-0), Oscoda (2-0) at Frankfort (1-1).
Southeast & Border
Hudson (2-0) at Clinton (2-0)
With wins over annual state power Ithaca and reigning Tri-County Conference champ Erie Mason, Hudson has been one of the early stories of the 2021 season. The story has a chance to get even better this week as the Tigers take on reigning Division 6 runner-up Clinton in the Lenawee County Athletic Association opener. With a combined 111 points over its first two games, Clinton’s offense quickly has found its usual high-powered stride but will have an interesting test against a Hudson defense that’s given up just 14 points, shut out Mason and was similarly tough much of last year minus its season-ending playoff defeat.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Adrian Madison (2-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (2-0), Saline (2-0) at Ypsilanti Lincoln (1-1), Carleton Airport (1-1) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (2-0), Union City (1-1) at Jonesville (2-0).
River Rouge (1-1) at Battle Creek Lakeview (2-0)
This is another great test for two teams that have had plenty of success the last two seasons. River Rouge goes back on the road after falling 38-29 in a late-added matchup with reigning Division 2 runner-up Warren De La Salle Collegiate. Lakeview looks early like a player in the competitive Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference, and facing the reigning Division 3 runner-up will only prepare the Spartans more. The Panthers, playing as independents, have trips to Ohio and back west to Portage Northern lined up later this regular season as they look to build for a possible third-straight trip to the Finals.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Edwardsburg (2-0) at Niles (2-0), Portage Northern (0-2) at St. Joseph (2-0), Saugatuck (1-1) at Niles Brandywine (2-2), Comstock (2-0) at Cassopolis (1-1).
Kingsley (2-0) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-0)
Sault Ste. Marie found a new home last season in the Northern Michigan Football League, playing in the Legends division and going 3-1 in league play with that lone defeat 40-6 to Kingsley. They welcome the Stags for the rematch having yet to surrender a point with shutouts of St. Ignace and Tawas so far. Kingsley similarly has given up just eight points, in its opener to McBain, before shutting out Glen Lake last week. But the key stat might be that the Stags haven’t been held under 36 points in a game since a 2019 Semifinal loss to eventual Division 5 champion Lansing Catholic.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Marquette (1-1) at Escanaba (1-1), Menominee (2-0) at Gladstone (1-1), Calumet (0-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (2-0). SATURDAY Iron Mountain (1-1) at Houghton (1-1).
Muskegon (1-1) at Zeeland West (1-0)
The Ottawa-Kent Conference reshuffled prior to the 2020 season, and the result was as predicted – the Green is now one of the strongest leagues in the state. The success last season of Muskegon High and Mona Shores is noted above, with Zeeland West winning a Finals title as recently as 2015, Zeeland East reaching the Semifinals in 2018, and among others Reeths-Puffer seemingly on the verge of taking a step the last few seasons and Grand Rapids Union off to a 2-0 start this fall. If last season was an indication though, this will always be a game that plays into the league title hunt – Muskegon won the 2020 meeting 15-14 on the way to finishing second.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Rapids West Catholic (2-0) at Allendale (2-0), Grandville (1-1) at Caledonia (2-0), Hudsonville Unity Christian (2-0) at Hamilton (2-0), Ravenna (2-0) at Whitehall (1-1).
Genesee (2-0) at Deckerville (1-0)
The Eagles long ago established themselves as among the elite in 8-player statewide, and last week’s 50-26 win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart seems a sign that’s continuing this fall. Deckerville has won all three of its matchups with Genesee since the latter moved to 8-player in 2018, but last season’s game was a competitive 56-36 – and the Wolves are piling up points this fall with a combined 102 over a 56-52 win over Mayville and 46-40 victory over Kingston to start the season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mio (2-0) at Au Gres-Sims (2-0), Suttons Bay (2-0) at Merrill (1-1). SATURDAY Kinde North Huron (2-0) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (1-1), Norway (1-1) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-0).
PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech’s Julius Faulkner (18) breaks a tackle and prepares to take on another defender during his team’s Week 1 win against Southfield Arts & Technology. (Photo by Quintin Love Jr.)
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 email@example.com 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.)