By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We may have only just begun this abbreviated Michigan high school football season, but this weekend we’ll reach the midway point – and the beginning of another October full of opportunities.
Every game matters even more with a six-game schedule, and early league leaders are meeting everywhere over the next two days – including in five leagues in the Grand Rapids/Muskegon areas alone.
Below is a quick look at some of the especially intriguing matchups. Check out the MHSAA Score Center beforehand for kickoff times and locations of all games, and come back Friday and Saturday for scores as they’re reported.
This week’s broadcast schedule includes 48 varsity football games on MHSAA.tv; click the link for listings.
Bay & Thumb
Mount Pleasant (2-0) at Midland (2-0)
Seven of the last 10 meetings between these Saginaw Valley League Blue foes have been decided by eight points or fewer, including Midland’s 22-21 win a year ago that helped the Chemics to a shared conference title. Along with matchups both still face with Midland Dow, tonight’s should significantly shape this season’s league race.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY New Lothrop (2-0) at Montrose (2-0), Grand Blanc (1-1) at Lapeer (2-0), Midland Bullock Creek (1-1) at Hemlock (2-0). SATURDAY Croswell-Lexington (2-0) at North Branch (2-0).
West Bloomfield (2-0) at Clarkston (2-0)
The Wolves quickly are making last season’s uncharacteristic 3-6 finish – their first below .500 since 2002 – a distant memory, but this matchup will allow them the opportunity to avenge a 2019 loss for the first time. West Bloomfield claimed last year’s matchup 24-0 on the way to finishing 10-2, and more interestingly hasn’t lost a game by more than seven points since 2016. With both programs surging again, we could be in for another close contest.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Detroit Denby (2-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (1-1), North Farmington (1-1) at Birmingham Groves (1-1), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (1-1) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (2-0). SATURDAY Warren De La Salle Collegiate (1-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (2-0).
Lansing Catholic (2-0) at Portland (1-1)
Lansing Catholic rode last year’s first win in this rivalry since 2015 all the way to the Division 5 championship, and the Cougars have tuned up on both sides of the ball outscoring their first two opponents by a combined 85-3. The Raiders will hope for a result similar to last year’s first meeting with Lansing Catholic, a 21-20 win, before they fell 21-0 in that District Final rematch. Portland last week bounced back with a shutout of Charlotte after falling big in its opener to DeWitt.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Reed City (2-0) at Central Montcalm (2-0), Canton (2-0) at Brighton (1-1), Stockbridge (1-1) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (1-1), Ortonville Brandon (2-0) at Corunna (1-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Kingsley (2-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (1-1)
The Stags ended their six-game losing streak to St. Francis last season with a 26-7 victory that eventually decided the Northern Michigan Football League Legends title. Kingsley hasn’t slowed down, running its regular-season winning streak to 16 last week. But St. Francis’ 14-7 loss to new league member Sault Ste. Marie in the season opener is looking even better after the Sault’s win over Marquette, and the Gladiators still have reason to hope for at least a three-way tie for the Legends championship.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Traverse City Central (2-0) at Cadillac (2-0), Harbor Springs (2-0) at Manistee (2-0), Frankfort (1-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-0), Charlevoix (2-0) at Boyne City (1-1).
Southeast & Border
Clinton (2-0) at Blissfield (2-0)
Reshuffling among southeastern Lower Peninsula leagues took these teams’ regular Week 2 nonconference meeting up a few levels. It already was a solid nonleague matchup – they’ve played regularly since 2012 and split the last four meetings with Clinton winning last season 45-13. Now they find themselves tied for the early lead in the Lenawee County Athletic Association, with Blissfield coming off a 31-14 win over reigning champion Hillsdale last week.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Saline (2-0) at Monroe (2-0), Hillsdale (1-1) at Ida (1-1), Battle Creek Harper Creek (1-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (1-1). SATURDAY Schoolcraft (2-0) at Chelsea (2-0).
Cassopolis (2-0) at Centreville (2-0)
The Rangers are up to 26-1 in league play since the Southwest 10 Conference was formed in 2017, and that means even more considering five of the remaining six 11-player football members made the playoffs in 2019. Cassopolis’ closest league win last year was 15-0 over Centreville, which has continued its rejuvenation and could have its sights set on more after losing four games in 2019 by a combined 28 points. The Bulldogs avenged one of those defeats downing White Pigeon 14-8 last week.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Sturgis (2-0) at Paw Paw (2-0), Portage Central (0-2) at St. Joseph (2-0), Constantine (1-1) at Watervliet (2-0), Stevensville Lakeshore (1-1) at Battle Creek Central (1-1).
Gladstone (1-0) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-0)
Gladstone provided an uplifting story last weekend, coming off short prep time to edge Negaunee 22-20 and after also missing out on opening weekend. Next up is the team generating the most buzz in the Upper Peninsula. Sault Ste. Marie has wins over Traverse City St. Francis and Marquette – and will be looking to avenge last season’s 20-8 loss to the Braves.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Marquette (1-1) at Kingsford (2-0), L'Anse (1-1) at Negaunee (1-1), Menominee (1-1) at Escanaba (0-0), Norway (0-2) at Bark River-Harris (0-2).
Zeeland East (2-0) at Zeeland West (2-0)
This next-door showdown always means a lot. It might mean even more now that Muskegon Mona Shores and Muskegon High have joined the Zeeland schools to make what was a strong Ottawa-Kent Conference Green now one of the most powerful football leagues in the state. West won both meetings last year, by 20 and then 31 points in a Division 3 playoff opener.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Cedar Springs (2-0) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (2-0), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (2-0) at Byron Center (2-0), Grandville (2-0) at Hudsonville (2-0), North Muskegon (2-0) at Whitehall (2-0).
Whittemore-Prescott (2-0) at Gaylord St. Mary (2-0)
Whittemore-Prescott was a late addition to 8-player before the start of this fall. But it looks like the Cardinals made a sound decision. Their two wins in two weeks equal their total for the entire 2019 season. That said, St. Mary certainly will be W-P’s biggest challenge to date. The Snowbirds have put 111 points on the board over just two games and could be prepping for a serious run in their second season of this format.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) at Climax-Scotts (2-0), Brethren (1-1) at Mesick (1-1), Indian River Inland Lakes (2-0) at Onekama (1-1). SATURDAY Hillman (1-1) at Portland St. Patrick (2-0).
PHOTO: Lapeer is looking to improve to 3-0 after downing Flint Powers Catholic 36-21 last week. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)
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.)